A YEAR of woe for James Vaughan ended on a high as the young forward climbed off the substitutes bench to offer stuttering Everton hope to take into 2010.
Struggling to breakdown a determined Burnley side that had been reduced to 10 men for the final half an hour after Stephen Jordan’s dismissal, Everton were facing frustration as the visitors dug deep.
With an eighth league game without a win looming, manager David Moyes sent on Vaughan with seven minutes remaining and the 21-year-old, whose season has been ravaged by injury, responded by scoring with his first touch.
Steven Pienaar confirmed his side’s first league success since November 8 deep into stoppage time, the result catapulting Moyes’s side into 11th spot, five points above the relegation zone.
They are still 10 points adrift of where they were this time last season when a 3-0 victory over Sunderland saw Everton start 2009 in sixth spot.
Yet their third home Premier League win has at least left Moyes optimistic going into the new year.
“I always thought the goal would come. I thought we played well enough to get it, even though it was getting tight,” the Everton manager said.
Everton’s first-half performance summed up their current predicament – plenty of endeavour but no killer instinct.
Against a Burnley side that has conceded more goals than any other team in the top-flight, they were left frustrated as they were denied by the woodwork, as well as by referee Howard Webb, in the opening 45 minutes.
Burnley have conceded more penalties than any other team at this level this season, six in total, and the visitors were fortunate to escape gifting another when Yakubu’s fifth minute effort from the edge of the area appeared to strike the hand of Northern Ireland’s Michael Duff. Webb, though, was not interested.
The Yorkshire official waved away the home team’s strong appeals, a decision that clearly affected the hosts, as Burnley quickly broke and went close to scoring themselves after an error by Lucas Neill almost let in David Nugent, a staunch Everton fan when growing up in Liverpool.
Fortunately for Moyes’s side, Nugent lost his composure as he could only find the side netting yet it served as a wake up call for the hosts.
Luck has been in short supply for Everton this season, an horrendous injury list robbing Moyes of a string of key players.
He was again left bemoaning a lack of fortune when Yakubu volleyed against the post from close range following Leighton Baines’s 22nd-minute centre.
Then Brian Jensen kept Burnley’s hopes of a first clean sheet on their travels alive when he denied Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, the Russian midfielder, before two incidents in three second-half minutes were to prove fatal to Burnley’s chances of emerging with a first away win.
Nugent spurned a great chance when he hit the post when it was easier to score in the 59th minute before Jordan, who was booked in the first half, was given his marching orders for pulling Pienaar’s shirt.
Still Jensen continued to frustrate, the Dane denying Yakubu with a one-handed save in the 65th minute yet there was little the Burnley keeper could do when Vaughan struck from four yards with seven minutes remaining.
Pienaar’s stoppage-time strike means Burnley have now conceded 31 times in 10 away games.
Owen Coyle, the Burnley manager, argued that the goal should never have been allowed to stand as Yakubu was in an offside position.
“There is no doubt Yakubu was clearly offside on the goalline for the first goal,” he insisted.
EVERTON: Howard; Hibbert, Heitinga, Neill, Baines; Bilyaletdinov (Vaughan 83), Fellaini, Osman, Pienaar; Cahill (Neville 60); Yakubu.
BURNLEY: Jensen; Mears, Duff, Bikey, Jordan; Elliott (Blake 85), Alexander, McDonald , Eagles; Nugent (Kalvenes 63), Fletcher (Thompson 80).
Referee: Howard Webb (Yorkshire).
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