The home crowd drew its breath and rose to its feet as in the final moments of this match Marouane Fellaini then Denis Stracqualursi sent the ball goalwards through a crowded penalty area. When both efforts were turned away – Fellaini's by Mauro Formica, stationed on the goalline, Stracqualursi's by Paul Robinson's instinctive save – and the final whistle blew, they let out a chorus of boos. For a man more accustomed to the ire of his own supporters, the Blackburn Rovers manager, Steve Kean, is developing a real knack for upsetting the opposition, even if he had only a point to show for it here.
"Full credit to the players," Kean said. Blackburn have won eight points since Boxing Day – Everton have picked up only 12 at home all season. "We had a lean spell but we've only lost one [league] game in the last five, and even that game [a 2-1 defeat at home to Stoke City] we should have drawn. We're playing well and we've scored away from home again."
Blackburn's equalising goal will not make for a gripping montage on the club DVD: Morten Gamst Pedersen's long free‑kick dropped over the Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard, battling with Steven Nzonzi, then unwittingly bounced off the head of the otherwise excellent Shane Duffy and fell to Tim Cahill. His attempt to control the ball before clearing it gave David Goodwillie a valuable second in which to close down and, taking Cahill's clearance in the midriff, bundle the ball over the line.
Parity was no more than Blackburn deserved, despite the absence of two of their most impressive performers this season. Yakubu Ayegbeni is suspended and Christopher Samba was left out to "get his head together" after having a transfer request declined. Kean remains adamant that Samba will be at Blackburn for the rest of the season.
"We're not selling him, it's as simple as that," he said. "He'll be back on the training ground next week and involved again." Samba will have to win back his place, however, with Scott Dann restored alongside Gaël Givet in central defence and Grant Hanley, who scored the winner against Manchester United on New Year's Eve, on the bench. Blackburn played the better football and David Dunn, in particular, impressed; in the first half he had shots blocked by Howard and John Heitinga, a superbly taken goal correctly ruled out for offside and hit the post after good work by Goodwillie and Junior Hoilett. Rovers' away form is not awe‑inspiring, but they looked more relaxed at Goodison Park than their hosts.
"The Premier League just at the moment is showing that it can be easier to play away from home," said Moyes. "There's a wee bit more emphasis on the home team to be entertaining, attacking, and try to win the game."
Therein lie the home fans' frustrations. When Cahill scored in the 24th minute – a smart finish after Fellaini, unseen by the referee, ushered the ball to him with his hand – it was his first goal in more than a year, and one that gave Everton the lead against the run of play. It was not until the final 10 minutes, with two substitutions made and another on the way, that Robinson looked as though he might have to keep an eye out for the kitchen sink. Royston Drenthe and Apostolos Vellios brought far more vim to Everton's attack than Louis Saha and Victor Anichebe, whom they replaced. Moyes wore the countenance of a disappointed parent as he described the contribution of some of his most important players. "It never really happened for them, all day."