Even at this time of year some visitors are more welcome than others and in their hour of need Everton couldn’t have been happier to see QPR become the last side to arrive at Goodison Park before Christmas.
QPR’s pointless away record makes them the most hapless of travellers and they lived down to that billing again last night as Everton helped themselves to only their third home Premier League win of the season — moving above Liverpool in the process.
This most routine of victories, lit up by Ross Barkley’s stunning first goal of the season before Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith piled on the misery ahead of Bobby Zamora’s late consolation, was not impressive enough to have cured all of Everton’s ills.
But it won’t have done their confidence any harm and having learned earlier in the day that their opponents in the last 32 of the Europa League would be Swiss side Young Boys, it was perhaps apt that it was the pick of Everton’s youthful talent in the shape of Barkley that helped bring some much needed stability to at least this corner of Merseyside.
“We’ve got the three points today and that’s going to give us a bit of confidence so we’re going to take every game as it comes and hopefully put things right on the pitch,” Barkley said.
Strangely, given QPR’s position in the bottom three and aversion to leaving Loftus Road, the pressure seemed to be more on the home side and it showed in a nervy opening.
But Barkley was always liable to lift the mood. One excellent pass to Naismith almost led to an early chance for Romelu Lukaku and while he didn’t always have his radar working, Barkley was the catalyst for most of Everton’s better moments.
Mirallas, who later went off on stretcher, then cut in to shoot just over from long distance and if Barkley had previously just been warming up, the 21-year-old came spectacularly to the boil with the opening goal 12 minutes before half time as QPR’s resistance was broken.
Collecting the ball on half-way, Barkley strode forward, played a one-two with Lukaku and then crashed a left-footed shot into the top corner from 22 yards via the slightest of touches off Mauricio Isla.
If Barkley’s strike spelled trouble, when Mirallas then made it 2-0 two minutes before half-time with a 25-yard free-kick which wrong-footed goalkeeper Robert Green thanks to a deflection off Eduardo Vargas it looked like game over.
And confirmation came just eight minutes into the second half when the deserving Naismith helped himself to the third. Aiden McGeady had gone close with a curling effort just before half time and this time the Irishman hung up a cross for Naismith to head home his sixth goal of the season.
QPR’s defence looked as bereft as its attack, which manager Harry Redknapp belatedly tried to strengthen with the introduction of Zamora from the bench.
Zamora at least weighed in with his first goal of the season, tapped in 10 minutes from time after Tim Howard had saved from Jordan Mutch. But the Londoners’ run of successive away defeats at the start of a season is now only one short of the Premier League record nine Bolton racked up in 1995/96 season.
Redknapp should be worried.
EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Howard 7; Coleman 7, Jagielka 8, Distin 7, Baines 7; Besic 7, Barkley 8; McGeady 7 (Pienaar 73), Naismith 8, Mirallas 7 (Kone 90); Lukaku 6 (Eto’o 77).
QPR (4-5-1): Green 6; Isla 6, Dunne 6, Onuoha 5, Suk-Young 5; Phillips 5 (Zamora 59, 5), Mutch 7, Barton 6, Fer 6 (Kranjcar 77), Hoilett 5; Vargas 6.
Referee: N Swarbrick 7.