Dominic Calvert-Lewin shines as Sam Allardyce era starts with win
What a difference a week makes as Everton beat Huddersfield 2-0 to move into the top half and secure three points at the first attempt for new manager Sam Allardyce. A second home win in four days is a good response to those humbling Atalanta and Southampton defeats.
Quite improbably, these back-to-back wins against West Ham and Huddersfield mean Everton are only two points worse off than this stage last season. Amid belated signs of stability, a first unchanged starting XI since April secured successive league wins and consecutive clean sheets for the first time this season.
In his first match in charge, Allardyce oversaw a team performance straight out of his fire-fighting handbook as the visitors failed to create a noteworthy chance in the entire match. After the season Everton have had to this point, comfortably playing out a two-goal lead in the closing minutes was a welcome change of pace and lessened the heart palpitations of supporters.
Two clean sheets in a week should restore battered confidence from a defensive standpoint. For Ashley Williams and Cuco Martina, two players attracting plenty of criticism of late, these were their best performances in a long while. Alongside them, young defenders Mason Holgate and Jonjoe Kenny continue to look at home at this level. Kenny has arguably been the standout performer in these past two home games.
The first half demonstrated the fine line between organisation and overkill, as Everton afforded too much respect to a visiting team that had lost four in a row on the road and not scored an away goal since the opening day. Just 42 percent possession in the first half and the manner in which Everton struggled to create chances or even retain possession is something Allardyce and the players must work on with the Anfield derby up next in the league.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- A simple but effective approach saw Allardyce to victory as timely substitutions and the occasional tactical tweak proved sufficient.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 6 -- Two clean sheets in a row must feel like an early Christmas present after the workload Pickford has faced this season. Sparse work for the day amounted to claiming crosses and holding one deflected shot.
DF Jonjoe Kenny, 8 -- Everton may have found a defender that relishes a tackle more than former right-back Tony Hibbert. Promising attacking play has been a pleasing new feature of the past two games.
DF Mason Holgate, 7 -- The 21-year-old impressed again after receiving another chance in his preferred position, though his composure in possession can occasionally lapse into carelessness.
DF Ashley Williams, 8 -- This was a strong reply after the needless penalty concession on Wednesday. The crucial difference here was that there was no telling defensive error undermining the good work either side of it.
DF Cuco Martina, 8 -- Often seems to lack the self-belief needed at this level, but after a few moments of indecision during a nervy start, this assertive display was easily his most convincing since joining on a free transfer in the summer.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 6 -- Slow to get going and made mistakes in and out of possession in the first half. There was at least a more recognisable second half performance and Gueye regained possession to start the move leading to the second goal.
MF Aaron Lennon, 7 -- Industrious as always without the ball and more effective with it after moving higher up the pitch in the second half. Involved in the opening goal and created another chance for Dominic Calvert-Lewin later on.
MF Tom Davies, 6 -- On the receiving of several robust challenges in the early stages and never quite settled. His misfortune was that his eventual substitution arrived just as his performance picked up.
MF Wayne Rooney, 7 -- Once more employed in a deeper role, this was a more restrained but possibly more rounded than midweek. Fine assist for the second goal capped a productive week.
MF Gylfi Sigurdsson, 7 -- Opened up with three wretched set pieces, but the £45 million record signing is finding his range in the final third. First-time finish to break the deadlock was his fourth goal or assist in the last four league games (two goals, two assists).
FW Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 9 -- The young forward ran himself into the ground from start to finish, ploughing the loneliest of furrows in the first half, before delivering in the second with a neat assist and the decisive second goal.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 5 -- No successful tackles or interceptions is hardly a ringing endorsement for a player brought on to protect the defence.
MF Ademola Lookman, N/R -- Worked hard but unable to affect the game in an attacking sense.
DF Michael Keane, N/R -- On for the last 10 minutes to close out the game.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.