As the ball flew towards him, Jack Harrison acted with instinct. With a deft side-foot using his right boot, the midfielder lofted a volley over a crowded Bournemouth penalty area from some 20 yards out and into the net off the crossbar. The moment was cathartic for the 26-year-old.
The road to recovery has not been easy for the midfielder on loan from Leeds United. His Everton debut has been delayed by a hip injury but the moment of quality in the 37th minute was some way to mark his first Goodison Park start.
“It’s been a long time that I have been out for now, recovering from my injury, I’ve been working really hard and the staff have helped me get to this position to give me this opportunity,” Harrison said.
“I saw the keeper off his line a little bit so I thought if I can try and get it over him… I try not to think about it too much and that’s usually when the best things happen, when I don’t think about it too much. Luckily for me, it went in.”
For a team that has found scoring rather difficult, the ability to conjure something out of nothing as a result of sheer ingenuity is a boon for Sean Dyche. “It’s a fine finish and I’ll see if he can do it again in training,” the Everton manager said with a grin.
Harrison’s goal was even more noteworthy given he was “carrying a niggly hamstring”. Scoring on his home debut will quickly enamour the loanee to the locals, and his record of 16 goal involvements (10 assists and six goals) in 40 appearances for a struggling Leeds side last season suggests he could boost Everton’s creativity.
“His stats have been good down the years; he’s got quality and it’s not just about his work ethic, which is very important,” Dyche said. “He’s effervescent [in] how he wants to train and how he wants to play and he really wants to take it on. He’s got that on-ball bravery that we search for in teams and in players.”
The Everton supporters may not have left Goodison Park quite like The Magic Roundabout’s Zebedee, but there will at least have been a slight spring in their step. The home crowd have become accustomed to anxious affairs when they face teams close to them in the table, but this ultimately proved to be a comfortable afternoon.
Not only did Everton end their four-game losing run at home by scoring more than one goal in a home match for the first time in practically a year — with James Garner and Abdoulaye Doucoure scoring either side of Harrison — but they were dominant in possession and played with verve.
During a difficult start to the season, Dyche has maintained that Everton’s results have not befitted their performances — this victory did give credence to that argument.
The positives were there for the supporters to cling to: Dominic Calvert-Lewin starting his third successive game and although, unlike the previous two, he failed to score, he was a constant thorn in the Bournemouth defence; fit-again Dwight McNeil is improving and again ran his socks off; plus there was a first clean sheet of the season.
Yet, perhaps it will be the growing influence of Garner in Everton’s midfield that is the main takeaway from this game. Aside from scoring his first Premier League, the midfielder drove his team forward, linked up well with team-mates and finished with a passing accuracy of 87 per cent.
“I think Jimmy has been playing very well anyway. He’s learning,” Dyche said. “I know his will and desire to break up a game but actually I was as impressed with him breaking the midfield lines to get into pockets, receive the ball, turn and play forwards.
“We’re endlessly talking to the midfield players about that. There were really good signs of that today.”
Iraola: 'We have to be worried'
Although the Goodison faithful will not be getting ahead of themselves, they can take solace from there being three vastly inferior teams in the division — with Bournemouth being one of them.
Andoni Iraola is still on the hunt for the first league win of his tenure on the south coast but on this evidence the wait may be long. This Bournemouth team were poorer than the one that had nothing to play for on its last visit under Gary O’Neil on the final day last season.
This time they were careless and subdued until it was too late; and with the October international break now upon us, this is the time that twitchy owners can act. “When you are in the relegation spots like we are now we have to be worried,” Iraola admitted. “We haven’t won games so I’m not doing my homework.”