Everton’s winless run is relegation form – they cannot just point to deductions

Everton's winless run is relegation form – they can't just point to deductions

It has been nine games since Everton won in the Premier League; the worst run in the division.

On Saturday, for only the second time in those nine games, they were ahead, courtesy of Jarrad Branthwaite’s splendid strike against 10-man Brighton until the fifth minute of nine added on.

Defending with trojan doggedness, they were finally breached when Lewis Dunk headed in Pascal Gross’s peach of a cross. Everton had dropped two more points.

For all the possible injustice of Everton’s 10 points deduction – the club are appealing – and the fans’ suggestion of Premier League corruption, five points in nine games is relegation form by any yardstick. They have 21 points, one more than third from bottom Luton, who have both a game in hand and a sense of momentum.

“Spin it how you wish,” Everton manager Sean Dyche shrugged. “It’s a valuable point on the table. We should be on 31 don’t forget and that’s reasonably healthy compared to previous seasons. It’s how you measure it, but what I don’t understand why they take the 10 points off you as if it’s done when it’s clearly not. Leave the table alone, let it play out as it is. That’s a more simple scenario. My job is to look at the bigger picture.”

Having inflicted Brighton’s heaviest home defeat in both of the previous two seasons – a 3-0 with Burnley and 5-1 with his current charges last May – Everton manager Dyche was within sight of a closer, but surely more rewarding, victory here.

“Today, nine minutes go up and that changes the whole stadium,” he said. “They keep throwing bodies forwards and that didn’t go so well for us. You’ve no divine right to win a Premier League game, you’ve got to be diligent the whole game. But the players have been solid with their mentality and the belief in the performance was good.”

Brighton could also claim they deserved more. Sorely missing Kaoru Mitoma, absent with a back injury, they were mostly dominant and Everton needed to defend deeply and serenely to thwart them. Yet, even before Branthwaite scored, Everton had the more clear-cut chances, most notably when little Tariq Lamptey twisted every sinew to spectacularly head Abdoulaye Doucoure’s fearsome volley over, with Bart Verbruggen beaten every which way.

Danny Welbeck might have had a first-half hat-trick, but Lamptey’s heroics heralded both a triple Brighton substitution which disrupted their rhythm, a period of relative Everton expansion and their goal. Jordan Pickford hoofed a long free kick from his own half. It fell to Branthwaite, so impressive in defence all afternoon. The centre half expertly scooped home his second goal of the season from the edge of the area.

“We knew Everton’s most important quality is set pieces,” lamented Roberto De Zerbi, the Brighton head coach. “We worked on that before the game. Maybe not enough.”

Everton were gifted a further fillip when Billy Gilmour received a straight red card for scything through Amadou Onana. From there, Beto ought to have made it safe.

“We were hoping he’d do better with that one,” said Dyche, but Brighton were still in the ascendency and Branthwaite added to his heroics at one end with a heroic block at the other, before Pickford made what seemed to be a match winning save.

As the fifth of those nine minutes approached, that seemed to be that. It wasn’t and Dyche had more to reflect upon. “Onwards and upwards,” he declared.

Without wins, it may be neither.