THE evening started with mild panic at the perceived absence of Leighton Baines – but when the left back appeared and the goals started to flow calm was soon restored.
The England defender’s apparent omission from the official team-sheet, along with several others, was entirely innocent but sparked mild hysteria among supporters who made the trip to Lancashire that their cherished player of the season was at Old Trafford being reunited with David Moyes.
But it was Everton’s new manager who shook Baines’ hand with a broad smile on his face at the final whistle, as he savoured his first victory as Blues boss.
The Toffees generally looked relaxed and in control against League Two outfit Accrington Stanley, with their new passing approach under Martinez again evident.
Just as in Vienna on Sunday, the starting 11 is unlikely to resemble that which begins the Premier League season at Norwich – but Martinez was again trying to assess what strength in depth he has at his disposal.
Kevin Mirallas was the obvious match-winner –creating two and scoring one – but in goal Joel Robles hinted he will provide Tim Howard with a stern challenge for number one spot with another assured performance.
Elsewhere though, Martinez may have found few clues to which fringe members of the senior squad will be pushing for first team spots, as Everton’s fourth goal was fashioned by Seamus Coleman and finished by Leon Osman.
The Blues were close to opening the scoring after 10 minutes when Stanley keeper Ian Dunbavin had to tip Steven Naismith’s deflected strike over the bar. But they went one better from the resulting corner, when Mirallas found the unmarked Darron Gibson loitering on the edge of the area, and the Republic of Ireland midfielder side-footed coolly home.
Everton were looking confident and relaxed, and didn’t have to wait long for another. Mirallas was the provider again, asserting his class to burst down the left flank and flash a cross to the far post which Victor Anichebe glanced into the net from near the penalty spot.
The hosts were game and workmanlike but rarely threatening and Everton were allowed to continue to move through the gears and work on their new passing style.
Stanley boss and former Toffees striker James Beattie’s men had to find a way to contend with Everton’s movement and speed, and frequently they found themselves being lured into rash fouls. One such body check on Naismith in a central area around 25 yards from the home goal tempted Mirallas to try his hand. The Belgian international sneaked his deft effort inside the post to cap an impressive individual half with a deserved goal. Everything was going smoothly until an uncharacteristic error from Phil Jagielka gifted the hosts possessions and they capitalised with a sweeping move down Everton’s left which produced a close range tap in for boyhood Toffee Peter Murphy.
The break brought a predictable raft of changes by Martinez, who handed Antolin Alcaraz his first Everton appearance while welcoming back Coleman among others. It initially hurt the Blues momentum, with Fellaini in particular allowing himself to get dragged into some niggly moments and also casually gave the ball away which almost cost his side dearly when his attempt to win it back became an ungainly clatter. Stanley left-back and former Everton youth player Laurence Wilson’s nicely struck free-kick dipped wickedly and hit the back stanchion.
The scare prompted Everton back onto the front foot, and when lively Stanley midfielder Luke Clark fouled Steven Pienaar they took advantage. Pienaar’s short free-kick to Gibson found its way across field to Coleman, who skinned the full-back and delivered a perfect cross which Osman expertly headed home.
Substitute Magaye Gueye went close to another with a powerful shot from the edge of the area which drew a good save from Dunbavin, and later the French winger wasted a better chance after Baines found him unmarked inside the penalty area.
It hardly mattered as the exercise was already effectively completed, and Martinez can now further build his side's fitness – and understanding of his approach – before their return to Lancashire against Blackburn Rovers at the end of the month.
ACCRINGTON STANLEY: Dunbavin, Hunt, Wilson (Liddle 71) Clark (Carver 65), Aldred, Atkinson (Winnard 68) Murphy, Miller (Windass 78), Webber, Naismith (McCartan 65) Hatfield. Subs not used: Dawber, Watson.
Booking: Clark. Goal: Murphy (45).
EVERTON: Robles, Hibbert (Coleman, 45), Jagielka, Distin (Alcaraz, 45), Oviedo (Baines, 45) Osman, Gibson (Junior, 87) , Mirallas (Pienaar, 45, Grant, 77), Naismith (Gueye, 45), Fellaini, Anichebe (Vellios, 45). Subs not used: Springthorpe, Duffy, Kone, Heitinga, Jelavic.
Goals: Gibson (11) Anichebe (16) Mirallas (45) Osman (62)
REF: Neil Swarbrick. ATT: 3,642.
NEXT GAME: Blackburn v Everton, Friendly, Ewood Park, Saturday, July 27.