THE title of Everton’s well-respected fanzine When Skies Are Grey served as the perfect metaphor for the bleak winter experiences of Huddersfield Town and their Mersey visitors heading into last night’s game.
The prevailing wind for both has been cold and biting, with the feeling being one of joylessness among rival sets of supporters.
On a Baltic night in West Yorkshire, there was a touch of respite for those with Everton affiliations and most definitely for their under-pressure head coach Marco Silva, who had left himself increasingly open to the elements.
For Town, despite a new face at the helm in Jan Siewert, it was a depressingly familiar story on home soil in the German’s first appointment in charge.
Despite playing with an extra man for the final 24 minutes after substitute Lucas Digne was dismissed after catching Adama Diakhaby as he raced clear - with the Everton replacement on the pitch for just 12 minutes - Town’s goalscoring malaise at home stubbornly refused to go away.
It culminated in a sixth successive home defeat for the rock-bottom hosts - courtesy of Richarlison’s third-minute strike - with forthcoming games against Chelsea and Arsenal providing further cold comfort.
Speaking in his programme notes, chairman Dean Hoyle spoke about supporters giving Siewert time and support in his quest to implement change at Town - and his comments were prescient on last night’s viewing.
One crumb of consolation saw Aaron Mooy make a welcome return from injury from the bench, with the midfielder named as the hosts’ man-of-the-match despite only being on the pitch for 35 minutes.
But the game’s outcome was another painful one for Town.
Siewert refused to be drawn in his first pre-match press conference when questioned about any potential tweaks of style to Town’s play, but tantalisingly hinted at a surprise or two.
One crumb of consolation saw Aaron Mooy make a welcome return from injury from the bench, with the midfielder named as the hosts’ man-of-the-match despite only being on the pitch for 35 minutes.Leon Wobschall
In the event, the German elected to match up with Everton’s 4-2-3-1 system with Jason Puncheon given an advanced role behind the recalled Steve Mounie, with Elias Kachunga and Diakhaby providing the width.
Options were there to support Mounie, but the speed of thought and incision was absent, with any vestiges of polish on show almost exclusively coming from the Toffees, more especially in the first half.
A deflating early concession did not aid matters for the hosts, although Town’s initial response was bright enough.
Everton’s hesitant backline - who had conceded 14 times from deadball situations this season - provided initial encouragement, but Town soon lost their way.
The best that the hosts could muster in the first half saw a Mounie drive career comfortably wide just before the interval - in a fairly token offering.
Everton’s opener was swift and stinging by contrast, with Bernard’s instinctive pass finding Tom Davies, whose cutback found the lurking Richarlison, who fired home the rebound after his initial low shot was blocked by Jonas Lossl - for his 11th goal of the campaign.
The Blues’ mercurial Brazilian looked in the mood for spells, with Everton’s comfort on the ball being in marked contrast to Town’s sloppiness in possession, especially at the back.
The hosts were guilty of creating own problems at times and there was little flow - all symptomatic of a confidence-sapped side who have forgotten what it feels like to win.
Thankfully, there was no further damage to the scoresheet ahead of the break, with Gylfi Sigurdsson seeing a low curler held by Lossl after manufacturing space and Seamus Coleman firing wide after a lovely back-heel from Cenk Tosun.
Another nimble touch from Tosun ended in Davies firing straight at Lossl early in the second period as the visitors sought to end the game as a meaningful contest against a side with just five home league goals to their name this season.
The struggling hosts were in need of inspiration, with the introduction of the fit-again Mooy providing a badly-needed lift to the spirits.
A clever Mooy pass soon found Terence Kongolo, whose cross was headed over by Kachunga in a rare moment of attacking proficiency from Town.
All the while, Everton’s inability to grab a second goal left them a touch vulnerable and they was exposed midway through the half.
The Blues’ flaky rearguard went caught out by a punt forward, with speedster Diakaby in the clear, only to see his heels clipped by Digne, who received the inevitable red card.
Jordan Pickford was soon forced into his first significant work of the evening to turn away Mooy’s curling free-kick before England’s number one showed true international class to make a fine one-handed save to keep out Kachunga’s point-blank header.
Despite late pressure, ten-man Everton held out as the hosts’ suffered a debilitating 10th defeat in 11 league matches and were left with that sinking feeling
Huddersfield Town: Lossl; Hadergjonaj, Zanka, Schindler, Kongolo; Hadergjonaj, Hogg (Mooy 55), Puncheon; Kachunga (Lowe 81), Mounie, Diahkaby (Depoitre 87). Unused substitutes: Hamer, Smith, Pritchard, Durm.
Everton: Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Zouma, Baines (Digne 55); Gomes, Davies; Bernard, Sigurdsson, Richarlison (Calvert-Lewin 86); Tosun (Kenny 70). Unused substitutes: Stekelenburg, Walcott, McCarthy, Lookman.
Referee: S Attwell (Nuneaton).