For so long on Saturday it seemed like Sunderland would break that Everton jinx, and they probably deserved to do it. Football is a cruel game, though. Here is what we made of it.
What The Gaffer Said
There was certainly nothing downbeat about O'Neill's reflections this week. He told safc.com:
We showed great spirit and determination today and the result is hard to take.
We lost the game but we shouldn't have. It wasn't through lack of effort, commitment or determination. We will come good.
The game should have been out of sight by half time.
We played brilliantly and should have been three goals up before the break.
When you consider we were playing a side like Everton, who are aiming for the Champions League, I thought we were outstanding.
We created chance after chance [in the first half] and looked much more confident.
I don't think anybody in the ground thought that we didn't deserve the goal at the stroke of half time.
Okay, so O'Neill was describing another defeat, but it is nice to see him talking about missed chances rather than lamenting the inability to create them. It's a big step in the right direction. (MG)
Front Four Clicking
Last week I said that Adam Johnson was improving and this week the former Manchester City man was pretty much 'as billed'.
There was plenty of zip in his game, he was purposeful in his movement, and positive with the ball. All of that on top of his goal and a goal line clearance.
But he wasn't alone. All four of the attacking players played their part and finally started looking like they could play as a unit rather than as individuals. That has to bode well. (MG)
That Cursed Fellaini
Save for Marouane Fellaini, this would have been a pretty comfortable three points. The big Belgian simply undid us with two pieces of real quality in two minutes.
Galling, and deeply annoying that it happened to us when we could have really done with the win, but winning games out of nothing is what quality players do, and Fellaini is certainly one of those. Sometimes, you just have to doff your cap to the opposition. (MG)
Cattermole Important, But Not Essential
One of the real highlights of the season has been seeing fans slowly come to the realisation of just how good a player Lee Cattermole is. In fact, opinion has swung to such a degree of late that people almost think we can't cope without him.
Meanwhile, the rest of the central midfield options have been derided to the point of ridicule.
Hopefully this performance made one or two reassess both of those standpoints a little. Seb Larsson and Jack Colback, save for two minutes of brilliance from Fellaini, were certainly not overawed in the midfield area.
Of course, whether or not they can force the pace of a game rather than react to it and contain it is still very much open to question, but they showed that they are far from useless. (MG)