For the first time this season, Everton’s players could stride towards their supporters, chests puffed out. A small, yet vociferous, blue pocket of travelling fans roared in delight, celebrating a victory at Brentford few had predicted.
What a difference a week makes. Derided after their defeat to Arsenal for hiding with the ball, suddenly largely the same personnel found courage. Suddenly they desired possession, looking for the decisive pass.
For a time, it felt like what was a largely controlled performance would bare just a point. With 67 minutes gone, the result hung in the balance. A frantic first half-during which, after Abdoulaye Doucoure’s early opener, Everton had been wasteful, resulted in a Mathias Jensen equaliser.
Then came the moment, James Tarkowski hanging in the air to meet Dwight McNeil’s corner. Into his ears went the centre-back’s fingers, shutting out the noise of Brentford supporters still harbouring resentment at his 2016 exit.
But this win must be just a start. This win – as much as it can be enjoyed – must be just a building block, a steppingstone towards a much happier international break than the one just gone. First, Luton Town then Bournemouth head to Goodison Park. A poisonous pit must become a place of joy.
Because what Everton supporters desperately need is for football to be the relief from life’s ailments once more. Protests. Relegation battles. Rumours of financial distress. It has sucked the enjoyment from following their club.
Distracting talk surrounding the recent agreement between Farhad Moshiri and 777 Partners for the former’s 94.1 per cent shareholding in the club could rumble on for months. But while Everton fans face a nervous wait for that deal “in principle” to be ratified, they were spared the suspense here. Three points “in reality” was secured by substitute Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
“The signs have been there,” said Sean Dyche. “But as we know, you’ve got to change the storyline, you’ve got to score goals, take your chances.
“We did a bit of work in the week with them, and a few things came out. It had that feeling where the Everton story…players are funny, especially, nowadays where the media is so powerful, you sort of start going along with it. And I said ‘lads it’s us that changes the story. That’s it, end of.’”
Doucoure’s goal just six minutes in bred confidence. Oh, how the blue corner roared.
But Everton could, and should, have then extended their lead. And then, as it tends to, profligacy cost them. Brentford had barely had a sniff. Brentford were sloppy, uncharacteristically so. Brentford levelled.
Calvert-Lewin’s introduction came just after the hour. Thomas Frank had minutes earlier added a third centre back, perhaps anticipating an Everton forward pairing. Instead, the lively Beto departed.
Yet despite Brentford’s defensive numbers, no-one picked up Tarkowski and his headed finish was simple. A Brentford comeback? Never likely. This was, as Frank remarked, a bad day at the office. But there was no criticism of “this fantastic group of players,” simply a challenge to bounce back.
Instead, Everton gloss came via Garner dispossessing Nathan Collins, and sliding Calvert-Lewin in to score only his third league goal since last season began. “You don’t always get more,” added Dyche, referencing previous performances. “You’ve got to force it. I thought today we did force it with our quality to go and win a game.”
And so, having spent the opening weeks pointing at – some might say hiding behind - “expected” this and that, Everton now have “actual” points on their board. But their supporters will expect more. Dyche and co. must ensure they get more.