In a season that is fast becoming a polar opposite of last year's memorable campaign, we approach the quarter way mark winless and confidence bruised by back-to-back 3-1 humblings at home.
For me, today was probably the lowest ebb of a difficult start to Premier League life. That’s not to overlook the fact that we were up against a side that fought tooth and nail for the Champions League last year, finishing fifth, with star quality all over the pitch.
But what we have lacked in quality on previous occasions we have made up for with endeavour, fight and team spirit and those ingredients weren't so obvious today, particularly as the match wore on. There appeared to be a growing anxiety in our play and a sense of ‘Groundhog Day’ in the stands. Just as those wins last season formed an unimpeachable momentum, there's a growing inferiority complex that threatens to engulf our season and make for a very difficult winter.
|A first home goal since February for Danny Ings|
It was the first time I’d ever seen Burnley play Everton in the flesh as circumstances prevented me attending either fixture with them in 2009/10.
Looking for any positive omen as we search for that elusive win, Everton had of course lost both Sunday matches that had followed their previous away matches in the Europa League.
Dyche had warned us not to overthink that one and his words were given added credence as Everton, who played in Lille on Thursday evening, swept into a fourth minute lead with the first meaningful attack of the game.
It was an effortless move that switched from the right to the left and the ball was worked to Leighton Baines in acres of space. His terrific cut back was perfect for Samuel Eto'o to steam in and beat Jason Shackell with a powerful header past Tom Heaton from six yards.
We just didn’t seem to get close enough to the Everton players in the early stages and their dynamic movement, with Samuel Eto’o playing more as a fifth midfielder and the fullbacks Baines and Coleman pushing up on both flanks, meant they appeared to always have a spare man to pass to.
However to Burnley’s great credit, we regained our composure and gradually grew into the game following the early setback. From a long Kieran Trippier pass, Danny Ings showed a wonderful touch to keep a promising move going that Jutkiewicz ended with a harmless shot into the side netting when a pass to the unmarked George Boyd would have been better.
Such decision making does seem to be undermining the former Everton striker's contributions but he did come good to play a key role in an unlikely Burnley equaliser in the 20th minute.
In truth it was gifted to us when Romelu Lukaku mis-directed a sloppy pass to Jutkiewicz. The rangy striker played a perfect through-ball for Danny Ings to run in behind the Everton defence before rounding Tim Howard and slotting the ball into the empty net.
It was great to see Danny Ings scoring again, his first at the Turf since February 8th against Millwall and only the second goal he's scored since Sam Vokes was injured against Leicester in March.
Burnley's purple patch continued. Another purposeful move finished with Scott Arfield firing a yard wide from just outside the penalty area and Everton looked rattled.
The game's ultimate turning point came in the 29th minute when the visitors concluded what seemed to be an endless passage of passes with a second goal. Steven Naismith took a clever touch to play in Lukaku and although Stephen Ward blocked the Belgian’s initial effort, the ball rebounded kindly for him to fire a scuffed shot beyond Heaton and in off the post.
Another error from the Toffees almost let Burnley in once more and although Jutkiewicz did really well to escape the attentions of Alcaraz, he wasted the opportunity with an overly ambitious left foot shot into the side netting when he might have squared for Ings.
Michael Kightly then won a free-kick after being shoved by James McCarthy right on the edge of the box in the 34th minute. It was a little early to bring on Ross Wallace but it was a range he would have fancied, instead Jones took on the responsibility and failed to lift it over the wall.
A similar move to the one that led to Everton's second goal led to Osman crossing for Naismith and the Scottish international looped his header onto the crossbar.
It was a really good half of football and although Everton dominated possession for long periods, there was enough dodgy defending from them to suggest that we'd get more chances, the question was whether we could keep things tight at our end with Everton's threat on the counter a constant.
While the deficit was just one goal we always had a chance but as the second half drifted on without much goalmouth incident, the belief seemed to drain a little. Everton were dictating the tempo of the game with Gareth Barry particularly influential. Playing against teams as good in possession as Everton, we are going to find that going up against them outnumbered in midfield will make things extremely difficult. At Arsenal, I would like to see Chalobah start the match, if only to see what impact he could have. Once again his noise and touch impressed for the little time he was introduced here.
I felt Trippier was our most effective performer and once again he got into some good positions and put some decent service into the box.
It felt like Everton were merely toying with us and sure enough the third came when Eto’o fired in from 25 yards. Cameroon’s most decorated international nearly had a hat-trick when he latched onto a suicidal Trippier back-pass, but the woodwork saved us from further embarrassment.
At the other end Ings could have reduced arrears, he did really well to beat Everton’s central defenders and create a fine opening but his final shot was high and rising.
After our recent point at Leicester, Sean Dyche looked forward to three games from four at home. We’ve had two of those now and still not gained a point.
But now is not a time for deriding the efforts of the Board of Directors and the players as seems to happen after every defeat. We have played two sides - West Ham and Everton - that could very well be in the top eight by the end of the season. The players will need all the encouragement we can muster for the visits of Hull, Stoke Aston Villa and Newcastle. These games will be a watershed for our season either way.