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Referee Jon Moss is unlikely to feature on Mark Hughes' or David Moyes' Christmas card list this year after the official was at the centre of two controversial decisions on Sunday.
The first was showing a red card to Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar for two bookable offences - and the second for denying Queens Park Rangers a late penalty after Seamus Coleman looked to have tripped Junior Hoilett.
Hughes and Moyes were far from complimentary about the referee's display - despite the fact they both left Loftus Road with a point after Sylvain Distin cancelled out Hoilett's early opener.
Pienaar's first booking arrived in the 52nd minute for a hefty challenge on Hoilett and his second for a soft looking tussle with Jose Bosingwa.
And Everton boss Moyes felt Moss made a bad call, saying: 'It's very harsh to give someone a red card for that. It's incredible. 'I think it was the wrong decision. We had to play for 30 minutes with 10 men so it was always going to be difficult for us to win from there.'
QPR manager Hughes - whose side are still waiting for their first league win - added: 'I felt we should have had a stonewall penalty - and the referee was only four yards away so why he hasn't given it I don't know.'
Moyes will probably have been the happier manager last night, travelling back to Merseyside in the knowledge that a point preserved Everton's fourthplace position.
But pressure is building on Hughes after his side failed to break down 10-man Everton with 30 minutes left. QPR stay rooted to the bottom of the Barclays Premier League on Monday Hughes will look back in frustration at their inability to secure their first win of the season after dominating for large periods.
Rangers gave themselves the perfect platform, taking a third-minute lead. Goalkeeper Julio Cesar punched clear an Everton corner and the ball broke to Hoilett deep inside his own half.
The pacy winger ripped through the visitors' retreating backline before firing a low shot that deflected off Leighton Baines past the helpless Tim Howard.
Rangers' rapid start nearly got even better five minute later as Howard's untimely slip inside his own six-yard box presented Bobby Zamora with a chance to double the lead - but he just failed to get a foot on Armand Traore's low cross.
Everton showed signs of life in the 17th minute as Nikica Jelavic forced Cesar into an excellent save with a well aimed curling free-kick.
Then QPR defender Ryan Nelsen sent a close-range header over the bar in the 22nd minute after Esteban Granero's outswinging free-kick.
The New Zealander would be left to rue that missed opportunity when the Toffees pulled themselves level 12 minutes before the break after some suicidal home defending.
Pienaar arrowed a deep free-kick into the Rangers box and Distin was allowed the freedom to send a bullet header on to the post before the ball bounced off Cesar's back and into the net.
And Hughes' dream start came within inches of turning into a nightmare just 60 seconds later when England defender Phil Jagielka thumped another header on to the bar.
Next, Jagielka was forced to show his defensive qualities with a brave block to deny Park Ji-sung in the 51st minute after excellent work by Samba Diakite down the right.
Rangers' hopes of victory improved massively in the 61st minute when Pienaar was given his marching orders - much to Moyes' annoyance.
Zamora came close to taking advantage of his side's numerical advantage in the 68th minute, but he fired an angled drive straight at Howard after expertly controlling Granero's lofted pass.
But the home team had their Brazilian keeper to thank for not going behind two minutes later when he produced an instinctive save from Jelavic's close-range header after good work from Distin.
Hoilett forced Howard into a good save with a fierce drive from the edge of the box before Granero fired the rebound wildly over and Moss waved away QPR's penalty appeals for Coleman's challenge on the Canadian.
The former Blackburn man was denied again in the 81st minute when the Everton keeper produced a full-stretch save to stop Hoilett's curling effort from the edge of the box arrowing into the top corner.
Adel Taarabt sent a free-kick just wide in the dying moments as Everton held on to secure a hard-fought point.
Thomas Hitzlsperger is hoping to prove his worth to Everton boss David Moyes sufficiently to earn a long-term contract at Goodison Park.
The former Aston Villa and West Ham midfielder had been training with the Toffees but has now penned a short-term deal up until January.
And the 30-year-old has set his sights on securing an extended deal on Merseyside in the coming weeks.
'First of all my focus is on the short term,' the German told Everton's official website.
'There are not many games between now and January but I want to stay beyond January because I enjoy it so much here.
'I think it is in my hands. I will get lots of opportunities to show what I can do in training and hopefully I will get plenty of games and I can prove to the gaffer I am worth keeping here beyond January. That is why I will work very, very hard.
'I think I am suited to the Premier League. It was my decision to come back after the previous season in Germany.
'I just wanted to be back here in England - I have had five years in Germany and five years in England but I have always said that England is where I want to be playing.
'The atmosphere, the people, the mentality - that is what I like and that is why I am so happy to be here.'
Everton boss David Moyes is looking for his side to sustain their early-season form and push on for a Champions League spot at the end of the campaign.
The Toffees drew 1-1 at struggling QPR on Sunday despite falling behind to an early Junior Hoilett goal and having Steven Pienaar sent off after an hour.
Moyes, who has seen his side criticised in previous years for starting the season slowly, is pleased to sit fourth in the table after their opening eight fixtures.
'I think we have got a good team and good players, I think we can try and do it (finish fourth),' he said.
'It is going to be hard with the competition we have got and who knows, we might dwindle away.
'But in recent seasons probably the question that is being asked is can we avoid relegation, so it is nice to be up there and I'm going to be positive about it.'
Moyes has seen his side draw their last two league fixtures either side of the international break and wants to take their continued belief into next Sunday's Merseyside derby against Liverpool.
'We are in a healthier position than maybe we have been in for a long time before,' Moyes added. 'We will go into it with a bit of momentum.
'I think Wigan away and QPR away were difficult, I might have been happy with one win and one defeat. I would have probably liked the extra point in the end, but two draws keeps you steady and keeps you going in the right direction.'
Mark Hughes insisted that it remains only a matter of time before QPR begin to pull away from the foot of the Premier League table but the pressure on the Rangers manager shows no sign of abating. The Hoops remain anchored to the bottom after Everton extended the west Londoners' winless start to the season to eight games. A Júlio César own-goal cancelled out Junior Hoilett's early strike and, although the visitors were reduced to 10 men for the final half-hour, Rangers could not find a winner.
For Hughes's side this was only a third point of the season but, with almost a quarter of the campaign gone he remains convinced it is just a blip. "We know we can compete in this league and we've shown it against the top sides," he said. "We're having a frustrating period but every club has one. We're having ours now and once we're through it that'll be the end of it."
His opposite number concurred that time would prove a healer. "They've got good players," said the Everton manager, David Moyes. "After staying up they've brought in an awful lot of new players and they needed the turnaround to make sure they were all right. It just takes a bit of time."
More importantly Hughes again received backing from his chairman, Tony Fernandes, who took to Twitter to tell those making negative comments after the game that they were "wasting time and energy" and that the club needs "time and stability".
With Everton fourth, Hughes could point to the fact that his side have been handed an unenviable opening fixture list, with injuries, another mitigating factor, again forcing a defensive rejig. The frustration is compounded by the fact that they are not always playing badly. In the second half in particular they forced Everton back and the visitors were grateful for some fine goalkeeping from Tim Howard and equally adept defending from Phil Jagielka.
In the main, though, it was a scrappy affair. Adel Taarabt, predictably, was in gloves but he might have been better off with a cagoule. The watery conditions had plenty of players struggling to stay vertical and at times it seemed as if this was a game being played on an ice rink for which only Esteban Granero, the most technically accomplished in midfield by a distance, had remembered to bring his skates.
Nevertheless the afternoon could hardly have got off to a better start for Hughes and his team. Little over a minute was on the clock when José Bosingwa hooked a Leighton Baines corner narrowly wide of his own goal. From the resultant set-piece César punched clear and Hoilett outmuscled Phil Neville to win the loose ball inside his own half. From there the Canada international raced forward with defenders backpedalling and, having seemingly held on to the ball for a second too long, watched as his shot clipped the heels of Baines and flew past the stranded Tim Howard. Only 118 seconds had elapsed.
César's only other important action in the opening half-hour was to push away Nikica Jelavic's curling low free-kick, while at the other end Ryan Nelsen might have doubled the advantage from close range. The QPR keeper, though, could do little about Everton's equaliser even if he will be credited with it. Steven Pienaar's free-kick was headed thunderously against the inside of a post by Sylvain Distin and the ball bobbled back over the line courtesy of a rebound off the Brazilian's back.
That sparked 60 seconds of madness to match those in the opening exchanges. Jelavic tumbled in the box under Stéphane Mbia's challenge to bring Moyes to the edge of his technical area screaming for a penalty. The referee, Jon Moss, turned those appeals down but, from the corner that followed the attack, Jagielka planted a header against the bar.
The odds were tipped in the home side's favour on the hour when Pienaar was sent off after two yellow cards in the space of 10 minutes, the first after the South African hammered into Hoilett, the second issued, rather more dubiously, for a trip on Bosingwa. Certainly the contact was far less substantial than that of Seamus Coleman's boot on Hoilett in the Everton penalty area with 10 minutes to go.
They were decisions to enrage both managers. "It was very, very harsh to give someone a red card for that," said Moyes. "Incredible." Hughes was equally unimpressed with the failure of Moss to award a potentially game-winning spot-kick. "It was a stonewall penalty," he said. The referee is only four metres away – why he didn't given I don't know."
Either side of the red card both Howard and César had made fine stops, with the QPR keeper first denying Jagielka from point-blank range. His counterpart at the other end produced two excellent saves to keep out Hoilett efforts from the edge of the box and, at the death, Jagielka was on hand once more to deny Park Ji-sung.
A feisty, even and slightly manic afternoon ended with both managers in calm and magnanimous agreement. Neither Mark Hughes nor David Moyes would have necessarily backed some of their players' decisions not to wear the Kick It Out T-shirts, but they respected their rights to do so. There would be no repeat of the stand-off at Manchester United at either Queen's Park Rangers or Everton.
Anton Ferdinand followed his brother in not wearing one, along with Shaun Wright-Phillips, Nedum Onuoha, Junior Hoilett and Djibril Cissé. Hughes said he had expected his players to wear them, but would certainly not be punishing them. "It's a personal thing," he said. "Everyone has a view on whether enough is done, or everything that can be done, sometimes people will take a personal view."
Everton's Steven Pienaar, Sylvain Distin and Victor Anichebe did not wear the T-shirts either. "It is too big a subject just for David Moyes' opinion to matter that much," said their manager afterwards. "I did speak to the players. I gave them the opportunity, it was up to them to decide. I spoke to them and told them how I felt. I understand their points of view, and I'm totally supportive of the players."
The football itself could not have started much better for Hughes. Everton won two corners within the first minute, the second of which Julio Cesar punched away. The ball flew out to Hoilett, who pushed past Phil Neville. Hoilett tore downfield but seemed to have missed his moment to pass to Adel Taarabt. Angling away from goal, he tried a hopeful shot which deflected off Leighton Baines and went in.
The goal was rushed, clumsy and not obviously planned. The rest of the game was similar. Neither side could establish much control on a wet pitch, and there was very little cohesive team play.
Taarabt, a brilliant individualist, had some dangerous moments, playing through Armand Traoré, who nearly set up Bobby Zamora. Esteban Granero, whose gifts are more predictable than Taarabt's but no less exciting, grew in influence, chipping in a free-kick which Ryan Nelsen headed just over.
Playing in midfield against Everton is meant to be difficult. They are the Premier League's best harriers and botherers, but here Rangers were doing most of the work. With Marouane Fellaini missing his first league game of the season, there was a lack of authority in the heart of the team. Granero was free to have his fun without fear of reprisals.
But Rangers are very generous hosts when it comes to offering their guests chances. After 33 minutes a fairly routine Pienaar free-kick met no resistance, and Distin headed in via a combination of Cesar and the far post. Rangers panicked and could have conceded two more in the next minutes. Nikica Jelavic was the victim of an unpunished trip in the box before Phil Jagielka headed against the bar.
If the two-goal first half was fun enough, the goalless second was even livelier. The whole 45 minutes felt like the manic closing stages of a tight game. The ball flew from one end to the other, with players struggling to keep up with it or maintain their footing.
Pienaar, perhaps trying to replace Fellaini's menace, made too many tackles and was booked twice within 10 second-half minutes. He will miss the Merseyside derby next weekend. Moyes described it as "very, very harsh", but was delighted with how his players held out with 10 men. "We had to play in a slightly different way today," he said. "We had the old-fashioned Everton resilience, we had to dig in."
Tim Howard made two excellent saves – one down to his right, the other high to his left – from Hoilett shots. Rangers, eventually taking advantage of their extra man, might have had a penalty when Hoilett was tripped by Seamus Coleman. Jagielka made an added-time block from Granero's shot, but Rangers could not pick their way to their first Premier League win of the season.
"On another day we should have beaten them," Hughes said. "It is just not falling for us at the moment. We know there are going to be days when results and games go for us. Things will turn round, I'm convinced of that."
FRUSTRATION was the word Mark Hughes chose after his Queens Park Rangers again failed to win despite playing against 10 men for half an hour.
Three points from eight games makes unhappy reading for QPR, who stay bottom.
Hughes remains calm and insists he is the man to put things right. His chairman Tony Fernandes agrees and immediately took to Twitter after the game to offer his support.
The positives for QPR are that this was a much- improved performance and with a little luck could have brought that elusive first win and the massive injection of confidence that goes with it.
The negatives, though, remain. They looked vulnerable from set-pieces, from which they conceded one goal and were fortunate not to do so on two more occasions.
Bobby Zamora looks way off the player that brought him England recognition less than a year ago.
And they lacked the invention and guile to take advantage of a team that were down to 10 men after Steven Pienaar was sent off.
In their previous two games, QPR were 2-0 down before they started playing.
Yesterday they got the dream start they had been praying for, going ahead inside two minutes. Luck played a massive part as Everton were hit by a classic counter-attack.
A corner was punched clear by Julio Cesar and Junior Hoilett nipped ahead of Phil Neville and charged forward. He opted not to play in Adel Taarabt, who had made a great run down the left, and continued running at Everton’s retreating defence. He then scuffed his shot but it struck Leighton Baines on the heel and wrong-footed Tim Howard.
Everton slowly began to exert the control you would expect from a team sitting in the top four. And after 33 minutes they were level.
Pienaar floated in a free-kick from 35 yards and Zamora lost concentration, allowing Sylvain Distin a free header that he thumped against the post. The ball rebounded, struck Cesar on the back of the leg and into the net.
That prompted an Everton onslaught as the home side suddenly looked nervous. Nikica Jelavic was unfortunate not to get a penalty when he was up-ended by Stephane Mbia.
Phil Jagielka headed on to the bar immediately afterwards as again Zamora allowed him a free header.
But ill-discipline could have torpedoed Everton as Pienaar was sent off. His first yellow card was undeniable as he clattered into Hoilett. Referee Jon Moss then gave Pienaar a stern talking to and told captain Neville to calm his man down after he jumped into Hoilett again.
A minute later Moss was not so forgiving as he gave Pienaar a second yellow as he unluckily clipped Bosingwa’s foot as he ran in from behind.
Everton boss David Moyes was clear in what he felt about that decision. “I think sending a player off under the circumstances is a ludicrous decision,” he said. “We had the same referee against West Brom. He didn’t have a good game that day and he hasn’t again today.
“The referee must have known he was on a yellow card. It ruined our opportunity to go and win three points but the players did well to hang on to get something out of the game.”
QPR fans have questioned Hughes’ team selections in recent weeks and they made their feelings known after the sending off, calling for Djibril Cisse to come off the bench.
They got their wish as Hughes sent on the French forward for the last 20 minutes, but not before Everton should have gone ahead when Cesar brilliantly saved Jagielka’s close-range header.
Then came another decisive moment and again Mr Moss took centre stage, this time denying QPR a penalty as Seamus Coleman showed his inexperience by taking his eye off the ball in the area, allowing Hoilett to nip in. Coleman stretched out a leg and caught Hoilett, who went down, but Moss was unconvinced.
There was still time for Hoilett to showcase his talent with some lovely footwork to create an opening but his low shot was well saved by Howard. The Everton keeper again got the better of Hoilett with another wonderful save following a shot from the edge of the area.
Everton looked the happier side with the point as they sit pretty in fourth, a position Rangers can only dream of right now.
STEVEN PIENAAR ruled himself out of next week’s Merseyside derby with two yellow cards yesterday.
The South African will be banned for the Goodison clash after being punished for two fouls in nine minutes during Everton’s 1-1 draw at QPR.
Junior Hoilett’s deflected shot gave bottom club Rangers an early lead but Everton equalised when Sylvain Distin’s header found the net via a post and goalkeeper Julio Cesar’s back.
Everton held out for more than half an hour with 10 men and afterwards bosses Mark Hughes and David Moyes both claimed they should have had penalties.
Everton manager David Moyes hit out at referee Jon Moss for his decision to send off Steven Pienaar, labelling it as a "rubbish decision".
Julio Cesar’s own goal cancelled out Junior Hoilett’s early opener for QPR and Everton were down to ten men following Pienaar's dismissal in the 61st minute.
Pienaar appeared to make little contact with Jose Bosingwa but was shown a second yellow card, leading to Moyes to say of the official: "He had a poor game all day.
“(It was) very, very harsh to give someone a red card for that, incredible.
“I don’t even know if he touched him, I think the boy (Bosingwa) lifted his leg and it hit Steven rather than Steven hitting him so I think it was the wrong decision.”
Moyes, meanwhile, was pleased to take a point away from Loftus Road which leaves them fourth in the table.
"I think we have got a good team and good players, I think we can try and do it (finish fourth)," he said.
"It is going to be hard with the competition we have got and who knows, we might dwindle away.
"But in recent seasons probably the question that is being asked is can we avoid relegation, so it is nice to be up there and I'm going to be positive about it."
DAYS like that balmy afternoon in August when Everton rakishly dismantled Aston Villa with a vintage display of free-flowing football in the Midlands have got a lot to answer for.
Caught up in the euphoria of a blistering start to the season, Evertonians could have been forgiven for thinking any struggling opponents would also be as ruthlessly squashed.
But that was then, before the leaves had turned brown, refereeing standards had turned sour and the predictable bite of injuries had turned the pressure on Everton’s small squad.
QPR might have been rock bottom and down on their luck, but the odds of the Toffees turning the screw on Mark Hughes’ men as they did at Villa Park should always have been long.
Shorn of their midfield heart without Marouane Fellaini and Darron Gibson, and against a side so badly in need of a change in fortune, this was a point which may not feel so catastrophic in the long run.
They slipped, stumbled and skidded on the rain-lashed surface but thanks to Phil Jagielka’s heroic performance Everton were not washed away at Loftus Road – even though Lady Luck finally took the hosts into her embrace.
The absence of Steven Pienaar for next weekend’s Merseyside derby – caused so frustratingly by his sending off for a non-existent second bookable offence – will hurt the blue half of the city most acutely today. But there are positives to take from a draw which sees Everton remain in fourth place in the Premier League despite being off form and under-strength.
Initially it seemed like David Moyes’ black-clad side were going to quickly assert their dominance. They immediately put QPR on the back foot and forced two successive corners, but as the ball broke from the second delivery Junior Hoilett nipped in ahead of Phil Neville and ran almost the length of the pitch before his shot fortuitously spun off the covering Leighton Baines and looped past Tim Howard. It was the sort of goal which a winless side that is so desperate for a break craves.
The Londoners might have struck again when Adel Taarabt capitalised on Howard’s slip to play a dangerous ball across goal from which Bobby Zamora was just inches from connecting, although Baines’ astute positioning helped to distract him.
Everton looked short on protection in midfield without Fellaini’s commanding presence, and it briefly seemed they would be overwhelmed by the wealth of attackers in blue and white, but they composed themselves and forced a free-kick just outside the area which saw Nikica Jelavic force a smart diving save from goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
The expensively assembled hosts were not about to surrender their upper hand easily though, and went close again when Ryan Nelsen headed over the bar from Spanish playmaker Esteban Granero’s incisive delivery.
It looked like QPR had adjusted far better to the greasy surface and frantic tempo, but then Everton got their own slice of fortune. Pienaar took a delicious free-kick and Sylvain Distin was left criminally unguarded in the area to score with a header which ricocheted into the net off Cesar.
Cue a flurry of activity. Jelavic was denied a penalty after he seemed to be fouled by one-time Blues target Stephane M’Bia in the area, then Jagielka rattled the crossbar with an emphatic header from Pienaar’s corner.
Although they could credibly have been ahead at half-time, Everton would not have deserved it. Too often they were disjointed and largely failed to provide a frustrated Jelavic with useful service.
Victor Anichebe had toiled with little effect on the right flank during the first half and was injured in an aerial collision near the break, so it was little surprise when he was swapped for Steven Naismith with the second period in its infancy.
The Scot’s first few passes were rusty and awry, but he at least began to find space with some canny movement even if he couldn't help Everton rediscover their customary zest.
Then disaster struck. Pienaar had been booked for a clear foul on Hoilett and warned for barging clumsily into Ji-Sung Park. However, only ref Jon Moss will know quite how he then interpreted the South African’s innocuous challenge on Jose Bosingwa minutes later as a yellow card.
Alas he did, and the playmaker was sent off and ruled out of the Merseyside derby next weekend.
An already frustrating afternoon looked set to become a woeful one.
Incensed Everton tried to rally, and the subdued Kevin Mirallas began to show flashes of the form which has excited supporters since his switch from Olympiakos in the summer. Jagielka was close again with a close range header which was parried by Cesar and as Leon Osman cutely sent the rebound back into the area, Jelavic fired over.
If the referee knew he had erred with Pienaar’s shocking dismissal, he went some way to atoning when he gave Seamus Coleman the benefit of the doubt as the full-back appeared to fell Hoilett in the area.
Undeterred, the hosts piled on the pressure and the diminutive winger forced a magnificent diving save from Howard with his goal-bound strike.
Everton had to weather 30 minutes of pressure to earn their point, and that resilience in itself should provide some comfort ahead of the looming derby, even if the Blues are struggling to play the swash-buckling football which lit up their opening games and must nip their habit of falling behind early in the bud.
Anyway, the real light at the end of the tunnel will be the sight of a certain lanky Belgian warming up on the Goodison pitch before next Sunday’s game.
QPR defender Anton Ferdinand and a number of his team-mates – plus players from opponents Everton – did not wear t-shirts in support of the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign ahead of their Premier League clash.
The 27-year-old was the victim of racial abuse from Chelsea skipper John Terry in a league match last October, with Terry accepting a four-match suspension and £220,000 fine relating to the incident earlier this week.
Ferdinand was joined in not wearing the t-shirt by Rangers team-mates Shaun Wright-Phillips and Junior Hoilett, following the stance taken by Ferdinand’s brother Rio prior to Manchester United’s game against Stoke on Saturday and by Reading striker Jason Roberts.
Everton’s Nigeria international Victor Anichebe was another who decided against showing support towards Kick It Out at Loftus Road, along with team-mate Sylvain Distin.
The Professional Footballers Association, one of the bodies which funds Kick It Out, insist players are entitled to take a stance over the matter and had earlier defended Rio Ferdinand in the face of possible sanctions from United boss Alex Ferguson.
Ferguson described Ferdinand’s decision not to wear the t-shirt as “embarrassing” and promised to “deal with it”.
PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle said: “We will definitely monitor the (United) situation very closely and make sure Rio Ferdinand’s rights as a human being, never mind as a footballer, are not undermined in this position.
“Everyone has a right to free speech – just like you can’t coerce anyone into shaking hands, you can’t make somebody wear a T-shirt – although I do personally believe that joining in with the campaign is the best way forward.
“And then for all these players to get together and put what it is they want down on paper so we together as a union – all the players, one with another – can make those changes and move forward.”
The former Burnley player believes communication is key and urged Ferguson to follow the examples of Reading boss Brian McDermott and Newcastle manager Alan Pardew in allowing Ferdinand to explain the reasons behind his decision.
It was the declaration of Roberts on Thursday that he would not be wearing a Kick It Out shirt after becoming frustrated by what he perceived as the group’s lack of action over racism that earned a rebuke from Ferguson.
Carlisle added: “There are two sides to this one.
“First of all, Alex Ferguson is continual in his unwavering support for the Kick It Out campaign which is commendable and what we all want to see but you can’t vilify or coerce any individual for making a stand.
“This shouldn’t be seen as an element of control or defiance.”
TIM HOWARD hailed the heroic Phil Jagielka performance which helped 10-man Everton rescue a point against QPR and remain in the Premier League’s top four.
The Blues had to come from behind after conceding a second-minute goal at Loftus Road, and their task became even harder when Steven Pienaar was sent off for a second bookable offence with half an hour to go.
Pienaar’s controversial dismissal by referee John Moss means the South African – who appeared to barely make contact with Jose Bosingwa – will miss next Sunday’s Merseyside derby, but USA goalkeeper Howard insisted the point in West London will not leave Everton too down-beat ahead of the clash with Liverpool – particularly with Jagielka in such defiant form.
He said: “Jags was immense. He’s grown and grown and looks like he’ll cement himself in the England team playing like that.
“He’s been doing that for us for years. He’s a player who does his own job and at the risk of making a mistake he’ll try and cover for everyone else on the field too. He’s a leader, he’s solid, and he was an animal against QPR.
“It was a classic centre half performance – he was everywhere. It was just one of those nights you knew he wasn’t going to get beaten. He’s been a rock for us for a long time and we need him to have the momentum going into the derby.”
David Moyes was left furious by Pienaar’s sending off, and Howard shared his manager’s frustration even if he tried to remain philosophical about Everton’s recent bad luck with match officials.
“It was just soft” he said of the playmaker’s dismissal. “I think sometimes it’s helpful when the referee can try to keep everyone on the field.
“Sometimes you can’t when a player acts daft and does something stupid, but Steven Pienaar couldn’t hurt a fly. It wasn’t a proper kick on Bosingwa, it was a slow, lethargic thing. You’d hope he keeps him on the park. OK he gave him a talking to before that, and the referee had put himself in a bad position there because he has got to send him off if there’s another one.
“I hate to sound clichéd but I honestly think these things even themselves out. Hopefully we can get a few decisions in our favour.
“If come May you can get together some clips which prove we’ve been hard done by then OK but we’ll see. In the Wigan game we had a few shouts, versus Newcastle we felt we had some decisions against us and then at QPR we were denied a pen but eventually if we keep getting in those positions and asking questions of the referees and linesmen they’re going to have to get it right.”
Mark Hughes’ lavishly assembled hosts were brimming with attacking talent, and Howard believes it was always a tough ask to come back from West London with maximum points.
He said: “Going to Loftus Rd was difficult. I thought their goal was preventable but overall we played pretty well for the most part. It was an open game and after the sending off you’d have been happy with a point at that stage. They had a couple of chances but we kept them out after that.
“Arsenal had the chance to overtake us yesterday but they didn’t and we got a point and kept ourselves ahead. We knew going into it QPR had a bag load of talent and electrifying players. It’s a dangerous place to come and it wasn’t as simple as top versus bottom. It was two evenly matched, powerful teams and that showed.”
EVERTON boss David Moyes described Pienaar’s sending off as “a rubbish decision by the referee”.
Julio Cesar’s own goal cancelled out Junior Hoilett’s early opener for Rangers, leaving Everton to defend desperately at times after they had Pienaar sent off in the 61st minute.
Moyes was unhappy with the decision from official Jon Moss to send Pienaar off in the second half after the midfielder appeared to make little contact with Jose Bosingwa to earn a second yellow card.
“He had a poor game all day,” Moyes said.
“(It was) very, very harsh to give someone a red card for that, incredible.
“I don’t even know if he touched him, I think the boy (Bosingwa) lifted his leg and it hit Steven rather than Steven hitting him so I think it was the wrong decision.”
The Toffees boss added: “I am happy with the point. We went down to 10 men and the players dug in. Overall it was a hard point.”
Phil Jagielka hailed the visitors’ spirit, adding: “It shows the spirit we’ve got, we dug in.
“Once we went down to 10 men I thought we did a very good job and limited them to very few chances.”
Everton captain Phil Neville felt his side deserved their point.
“I think so,” he said. “With Steven Pienaar getting sent off it was backs to the wall. We knew QPR were going to be fighting for their lives.
“I think when we went down to 10 men we would have taken a point.” QPR boss Mark Hughes, however, felt his side deserved to win and claimed they were denied a definite penalty for a foul on Hoilett.
He said: “I think it’s an important point, but ideally we would have preferred to take the maximum.
“Overall I thought some of our play was excellent today, in the first half I thought we created some good movement, a stonewall penalty cancelled out. The referee was only about four yards away from it so why he hasn’t given it I don’t know.”