Oumar Niasse’s perseverance paid off as dominant Everton drew 1-1 in their pre-season friendly at Bury.
The Blues hit the post four times in the second half at Gigg Lane – with Niasse smacking the same upright on three occasions in quick succession – before responding to Neil Danns’ first-half opener when the Senegalese collected Matty Pennington’s lofted pass and blasted home.
It was a match which saw Everton dominate from start to finish as Marco Silva’s men got more game-time under their belt before this weekend’s trip to Portugal for the Algarve Football Club.
There was starting spots for Cenk Tosun and Kevin Mirallas, the scorers of four goals and five goals respectively in the 22-0 win over ATV Irdning in Austria on Saturday, while Kieran Dowell – who played 65 minutes in the Blues’ opening pre-season friendly – kept his place in Silva’s opening XI.
The first chance came with three minutes on the clock as an incisive move resulted in Cenk Tosun playing in Leighton Baines. The scorer of the opener against Irdning took a touch to create space for himself but saw his goalbound shot blocked by Shakers defender Adam Thompson. From the resulting corner, Michael Keane was inches away from tucking home from close range only to be thwarted by more last-gasp Bury defending.
Mirallas was the next to threaten when he glided down the left and had too much pace for Will Aimson, cutting a pass into the box which Tosun hit first time just over the bar.
On 21 minutes, Bury carved out their first opening as a whipped cross from the left by Stephen Dawson found Aimson at the back post. His header was blocked by Maarten Stekelenburg but the linesman flag was already up.
Everton continued to push forward with free-flowing attacks and, on 38 minutes, lovely work by Tosun saw the striker’s cheeky flick play in Tom Davies. The Academy graduate squared to Sandro as his blasted effort from the edge of the area was blocked. Seconds later, Tosun was the creator again, his one-two with Mirallas ending with the Belgian edging towards goal only for more brave Bury defending to keep out the Blues.
With Everton in full control, though, Bury broke the deadlock two minutes before the break. Phil Jagielka was able to head away Nicky Adams’ cross but when Thompson swung the ball back into the box, Danns found space and produced a finish with the outside of his foot past Stekelenburg and into the bottom right-hand corner.
Silva made nine changes at the break, Sandro and Stekelenburg the only players to stay on, as Jonjoe Kenny, Matty Pennington, Ashley Williams, Antonee Robinson, Nikola Vlasic, Mo Besic, Callum Connolly, Davy Klaassen and Oumar Niasse entered the fray.
The Toffees should have levelled on 52 minutes when Sandro burst down the right-hand side and fired in a cross for Niasse to smash a first-time finish against the post. Sandro went close moments later, exchanging passes with Kenny and racing into the area before blasting a fierce finish over the bar.
And the chances kept on coming for the visitors when Niasse drove a shot on to the woodwork again before seconds later, to the amazement of the crowd, hitting the same post for the third time with another low finish.
Niasse wasn’t to the denied again on 63 minutes. A long ball over the top by Pennington saw the persistent striker prove too strong for Saul Shotton as he chested the ball down, steady himself and smash a sweet finish past Murphy and high into the net.
The Senegalese wasn’t done giving the Bury defence a busy night, either. A fine run down the right from Kenny ended with the ball played into the area with Niasse spinning his marker and cracking a shot which was deflected out for a corner.
Everton should have had the lead 13 minutes from time when the lively Kenny found more joy, looped in a pinpoint cross where Cuco Martina – on for Sandro moments before – headed against the post when well placed.
Silva’s men continued to pile forward in the closing stages and Vlasic went close with a powerful drive which went inches wide of the left-hand post.
Then, with seconds left, that man Niasse nearly turned matchwinner with yet another wicked shot which needed Murphy to produce a smart low save.