It was Chris Hughton's fulsome praise for a former Everton goalkeeper that explained why David Moyes wishes to pressurise the current custodian when the transfer window reopens. Moments shy of a much-needed home win, one his team-mates may well have secured but for John Ruddy, was not the time for another lapse in authority from Tim Howard.
The Norwich City keeper made one league appearance in five years at Everton but, inbetween his recovery from a knee injury and departure with a thigh problem, showed the form that has brought England recognition to deny his old club and Leighton Baines in particular. "In our recent run there have been times when it's not just about making the obvious big saves," said Hughton. "It's also about concentration and plucking the ball out of the air when you're under pressure and making the right decisions."
Howard was found wanting on that score when Sébastien Bassong earned Norwich a point with a 90th minute header. The USA international was not solely responsible – John Heitinga, a defender of World Cup final experience, was equally at fault – but the 33-year-old's reliability has waned this season and he is in that torturous place for a keeper where solid displays are undermined by one punished slip.
"We need competition in all areas and that extends to Tim Howard in goal, absolutely," said the Everton manager, who looked at Jack Butland and Artur Boruc in the summer.
"Everybody has got to make sure they are at the top of their game. We have got to make sure we are not continually giving away things, making mistakes that are leading to goals that cost us. We need competition and there hasn't been enough of that in the last few weeks when we've had a few injuries. It is something we have to think about in January."
Steven Naismith's third goal in three starts, following good work by the impressive Bryan Oviedo on his full Premier League debut, gave Everton an early lead that could have been extended before Norwich rediscovered the tenacity and threat that has made them unbeaten in seven games.
Goodison beseeched Moyes to make a change as Hughton's side improved but, with only inexperience and a half-fit Tony Hibbert on the bench, options were limited. The visitors had gone close four times before Bassong rose unchallenged to head home Javier Garrido's free-kick. Hughton said: "The win against Arsenal at home was a big win for us and from that day we've picked up results. Maybe there's a bit more belief now."
Despite the setback, Moyes added: "I think we've got a team who can possibly challenge for the top four still, but we would need most of our players fit to be able to do that."
Man of the match Sébastien Bassong (Norwich City)