Everton v West Brom
With a certain FA Cup tie on the horizon, the desire to avoid serious injuries and suspensions must have been a close second to the primary objective of beating West Brom at Goodison.
As it transpired there was little chance of either against a Baggies side exhibiting less vigour than you might have seen at your local petrol station in the past week.
Leon Osman fired Everton ahead in the 19th minute with a deflected shot from just outside the box - later credited as a Gareth McAuley own goal - before being withdrawn at half-time with a minor knock.
And with an hour gone Tim Cahill – on a booking – was replaced by Victor Anichebe and the Blues’ 2011/12 super-sub wrapped up the points in fine style.
The hosts always looked in control against their anodyne foes and comfortably banked a fully-deserved maximum that lifts them to seventh – a place and a point above Liverpool.
There were few signs of a hangover from the glorious midweek FA Cup victory over Sunderland as Osman went close inside two minutes.
There must have been a fear that the Blues could start a little flat after the exhilaration of Tuesday night’s success.
But Osman snaked in between two West Brom defenders and ought to have got more purchase on Leighton Baines’ plump whipped cross.
The left back’s quality on the flank led to another chance moments later as his cutely disguised pull-back found Nikica Jelavic and, after Steven Pienaar had helped it on, Darron Gibson arrived to pummel a 25-yarder inches over the bar.
It was a telling glimpse of things to come as once again Jelavic was involved in engineering a long-range opportunity.
This time the Croat played a crisp one-two with Osman and the midfielder bulged the net from 20 yards with the aid of a sizeable deflection off the hapless McAuley.
Baggies keeper Ben Foster in all likelihood had the shot well covered, but McAuley took a chunk out of it, causing the ball spin and squirm off the deck and defeat the stricken stopper.
The visitors had barely had a sniff but suddenly could have found themselves level with their very first foray into Everton territory.
Paul Scharner, so often the scourge of David Moyes' men in the past, poured through a rare hole in the Blues defence to shoot low across the face goal.
At the other end, only a great save from Foster stopped Marouane Fellaini from making it 2-0, while a great run and shot from the devilishly inventive Pienaar ended a brief lull from the hosts as half-time neared.
It had hardly been vintage stuff but the Blues were certainly worth their lead against a decidedly limp Baggies outfit.
The pattern changed little after the interval but as the game neared the hour mark you couldn’t escape the feeling the hosts were crying out for the tonic of a nerve-soothing second.
Cahill went into the book following some petty gamesmanship from Liam Ridgewell - soon after he was replaced by Anichebe.
And just as he had done in the reverse fixture at the Hawthorns, the big Nigerian instantly delivered for his side.
The talismanic Pienaar went straight for the jugular and, as the visitor’s defensive shape crumpled, he laid off for the substitute to crash a clinical finish in off the base of Foster’s right-hand upright.
Jelavic, Pienaar and Gueye went close to adding a third as the visitors threatened to capitulate.
A 3-0 scoreline certainly wouldn’t have been harsh but it failed to materialise and Peter Walton, with his last act as a Premier League referee, brought an end to a comfortable win for the upwardly-mobile Blues.