Season Review: October
Baines haunts former employers as Naismith caps derby comeback.
The month of October saw Everton in action just three times - and the Blues could end it arguing their misfortune at only accumulating as many points from a possible nine.
Starting the month second behind fellow pace-setters Chelsea, three consecutive draws would see the Toffees end it in fifth.
But the 'refuse to lose' attitude and resilience that would become synonymous with the side over the course of the season was perhaps best exhibited in this tough period.
A trip to the DW Stadium was first up and the Blues would concede an early goal for the second game in succession.
Arouna Kone turned Shaun Maloney's cross beyond Tim Howard to give Wigan a ninth-minute lead, but Nikica Jelavic would soon silence the home crowd.
The Croatian netted his 16th goal in 20 starts with a close-range header from Steven Pienaar's pinpoint delivery to restore parity.
The Latics again edged ahead, with the lively Kone this time the provider for Franco Di Santo - but the Blues were awarded a penalty at the third time of asking with just four minutes left on the clock.
Up stepped Leighton Baines and coolly, typically, the left-back slammed home to deny his former side.
The international break kept many of David Moyes’ players in action after that 2-2 draw, but that didn't mean things were quiet at Finch Farm.
In fact, there was enough time for a welcome return, a new signing and a departure.
Club legend Kevin Sheedy had been diagnosed with bowel cancer in August, but made a swift recovery following surgery and resumed coaching duties with Everton Under-18s much to the delight of fans and colleagues.
Meanwhile, Thomas Hitzlsperger, former German international and ex-Aston Villa midfielder, penned a short-term contract at Goodison Park.
The 30-year-old had been training on Merseyside for a number of weeks in a bid to prove his fitness after a serious injury and subsequently earned himself a permanent deal.
Moyes' men were back in Premier League action on Sunday 21 October, the season’s first visit to the capital taking them to QPR.
Again, the Toffees were behind before the game had even settled, Junior Hoilett charging forwards and cannoning a shot into the net via a wicked deflection off Baines in under 60 seconds.
The emerging pattern of shipping goals in the opening stages didn't trigger alarms bells however, and Sylvain Distin eventually headed an equaliser, the ball going in via the post and a final touch from Rangers goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
A 1-1 draw was the very least Everton deserved, particularly considering the dismissal of Pienaar on the hour-mark, the South African collecting two yellow cards in quick succession, with the second looking extremely harsh.
That ruled the midfielder out of the first Merseyside derby of the season, but his absence was balanced out by the return of Marouane Fellaini.
Injured, he had missed the QPR clash, as well as Belgium's double-header of internationals, but even he was powerless to stop Liverpool racing into a shock 2-0 lead at Goodison.
For the second time in seven days, Baines was in the unenviable position of having netted an own goal, with Luis Suarez's shot ricocheting off the England man to leave Howard no chance.
Suarez would then claim a strike of his own, the Uruguayan converting a Steven Gerrard free-kick on 19 minutes.
Not surprisingly given recent precedent, the Blues fought back instantly and Leon Osman's low drive from the edge of the box was the perfect response.
And that rallying call was followed by a well-worked equaliser on 34 minutes - Fellaini producing a dangerous centre across the six-yard box for Steven Naismith to run in and stab home.
Kevin Mirallas, too, was enjoying a splendid afternoon of trickery and tenacity and caused the visitors all sorts of problems. Indeed, his withdrawal through injury at half-time was perhaps one of the key reasons Everton failed to go on and complete what would have been a stunning derby revival.
>>> Pre-order the Everton End Of Season Review DVD now.