Two teams with little to play for served up an encounter low on urgency and invention, and Everton emerged from the attritional battle against Newcastle with a 1-0 win on Monday night.
Theo Walcott offered the composure lacking elsewhere to blast home the only goal of the game in the second half. Manager Sam Allardyce tried his best to dress up the performance, but there were few positives beyond the result and a welcome clean sheet. Everton did not record a shot on target in the first half and ended the 90 minutes with Walcott's strike as their only attempt on goal.
A solitary shot on target and a dearth of creativity will do little to appease disgruntled supporters, who aired their frustrations before the match via two banners on display in the Gwladys Street stand. One of which read: "Our survey says... get out of our club."
This season has dragged on so long that midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin has transformed from one of the worst players to the best player in recent matches, leaving supporters wondering where this version of Schneiderlin has been all this time.
Dictating the tempo in front of the defence, and making a game-high four interceptions, Schneiderlin also showed ambition and accuracy in possession. His influence told in his absence: Everton lost their way after Schneiderlin went off injured early in the second half.
Everton had 57 percent possession but lacked the purpose and invention needed when monopolising the ball to such an extent. With so much of the Allardyce tenure spent watching opponents control the tempo in matches, those in royal blue appeared unsure what to do with roles reversed here. Stray passes and static movement underpinned a laborious home display.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Allardyce's persistence with several players who are visibly out of form and his refusal to use others within the squad continue to grate, especially as these final few matches offer an opportunity to assess players on the fringes of the squad.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 7 -- Faced a sterner examination from the Newcastle fans than from their players. Quick off his line when needed but otherwise a spectator aside from one blocked clearance.
DF Seamus Coleman, 6 -- Unable to leave his usual impression on proceedings but saved the best for last. His game-saving clearance inside the six-yard box in the closing minutes preserved the victory and clean sheet.
DF Phil Jagielka, 7 -- Almost presented the visitors with a goal because of an aimless pass in the second half but recovered well after his mistake and stood up well to late Newcastle pressure.
DF Michael Keane, 6 -- Positioning and decision-making was too often erratic when forced backwards toward his own goal. Those nervy moments need eradicating as his search for consistency continues.
DF Leighton Baines, 6 -- Baines became the 18th player to reach 400 Everton appearances and marked the occasion with a typically committed performance. Lack of support from midfield continues to hinder him.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 8 -- A class above his teammates until injury struck, adding a much-needed link between defence and attack. This resurgence needs to continue over a sustained period to convince his doubters.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 6 -- Subdued in the first half before raising his game after the Schneiderlin injury but never hit the level of performance expected. Twice wasteful in possession when well placed.
MF Theo Walcott, 7 -- The only player to offer any threat with the ball at his feet and kept his composure at the vital moment to notch the winning goal. His pace is so often the only spark across a blunt attacking unit.
MF Wayne Rooney, 5 -- Had such negligible impact in open play that it seemed he was on the pitch merely to oversee set pieces. This midfield experiment has run its course.
MF Yannick Bolasie, 5 -- Delivered the cross leading to the match-winning goal, but was frustrated for much of the match with all of his familiar flaws surfacing once more.
FW Cenk Tosun, 5 -- Nonexistent service and constant isolation are recurring themes for a striker with a thankless task. No player in the starting XI saw less of the ball as Tosun touched the ball just 28 times in his 84 minutes on the pitch.
MF Tom Davies, 5 -- Poor distribution defined a trying outing for a young midfielder in need of a confidence boost.
MF Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 5 -- Once again used in midfield and continues to lack consistency in an unfamiliar role.
FW Oumar Niasse, NR -- Ran around and added some nuisance value but little else.