The battle for 11th is on!
Everton have been awful over the past few weeks, but they rediscovered their steely resolve to earn an impressive victory over Sheffield United courtesy of Richarlison’s header at the start of the second half.
It means little to the Toffees in the overall shake-up, the win moves them back above Southampton into 11th, though they can go no higher, while the lowest they can now go is 12th. However, it at least gives the team something to build on going into the truncated summer.
Carlo Ancelotti made four changes to his squad, with Jarrad Branthwaite making his first Toffees start in the absence of Mason Holgate and Yerry Mina.
Djibril Sidibe, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Theo Walcott, who scored the equaliser against Aston Villa last time out, also returned.
There was also a surprise on the substitutes bench with youngster Ellis Simms named on the bench for the first time with Moise Kean out injured.
Though Ancelotti favours 4-4-2, it looked like a 4-3-2-1 at times, with Sigurdsson back in his favoured number 10 role.
There was little to write home about during a turgid first half that was fully in keeping with what we have had to endure over the past few weeks.
Walcott had the first opening when he broke clear down the right, but his fizzing cross did not find a team-mate.
At the other end, Chris Basham’s smart turn and cross forced Jordan Pickford into a sprawling punch away.
The best opportunity of the opening 45 came shortly before the break when Walcott’s right-wing cross found Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but his header smacked off the post.
I had barely sat down for the second half when the Toffees took the lead!
Sigurdsson’s free-kick was skilfully guided into the corner of the net off the head of Richarlison for the Brazilian’s 15th goal of the season.
Calvert-Lewin controlled a high ball battled his way into the box and drew a smart stop from Dean Henderson, though replays suggested he may have been better off laying it off to the onrushing Sigurdsson.
It was a much, much improved performance from Everton. Not hard I admit, but it was just nice to see them getting the ball in decent areas.
A lovely ball from Andre Gomes, who was looking much more like his old self, found the onrushing Walcott, but his pull back could not find a blue shirt in the area.
Sheffield United, who needed the win to boost their chances of qualifying for Europe, began to exert some pressure in the closing stages but Everton defended manfully, not least youngster Branthwaite, who was hugely impressive once more alongside Michael Keane.
The 18-year-old could be a real find by Marcel Brands.
The Blades rarely threatened Jordan Pickford’s goal in truth, despite a few nervy moments, failing to muster a shot on target for the first time in four years.
It was a timely reminder that Everton can battle and fight when they want to.