ROSS BARKLEY supplied the sunshine after the rain with an expertly taken late header to seal Everton’s friendly victory over Dundee United.
They call Dundee the city of Discovery, and David Moyes eventually learned that the 18-year-old – who starred for England’s U-19’s in this summer’s European Championships – is fit, firing and hungry for more Premier League action next month.
Indeed Moyes may well be learning about the pleasant headache which his increasing midfield options might bring ahead of the new campaign, after another lively cameo for youngster Francisco Junior who looked bright and busy before being replaced by Barkley after a misjudged tackle in the second half.
Otherwise it was a drab game to match the drab weather which caused Wednesday’s originally scheduled fixture at Tannadice Park to be rained-off, but Moyes won’t be complaining too much as his side notched up another pre-season win and got a useful work-out from the Europa League-bound scots.
Further rays of sunlight were to be found. Afterwards, Moyes’ revealed that new signing Steven Naismith, although denied the chance of a quickfire return to Scottish soil as he waits international clearance, is on course to hit the ground running come the big kick-off on August 20.
Moyes told the Toffees faithful that ex-Rangers star Naismith is in line to be fully fit for the start of the season having successfully recovered from knee surgery which has sidelined him for the past nine months.
He said: “Steven is coming along but we’re still waiting on his international clearance being ratified by FIFA.
“His knee is not quite ready yet so it gives us a little bit more time to work on things.
“I think his fitness will be fine for the start of the season but we’ve just got to make sure his knee is alright. If he was clear to play I would have given him 15 minutes here but we’ll just have to wait a while longer.
“We won’t be throwing him straight in. He’s been out for nine months with a knee injury so we have to be careful.
“In the training sessions he’s took part in he’s looked good though which is promising.
“Overall I was pleased with the work-out. We had a lot of young players out there tonight who did well. It was a decent game and although there weren’t many goals it was still entertaining..
“We still have some players to come back from the Euros so we’ll get stronger.”
Peter Houston’s United side have less than two weeks to get ready until they attempt to reach the money-spinning group stages of the Europa League, a position their visitors covet next term too, so this was the ideal sort of test for Everton.
There was no Nikica Jelavic up front for the Toffees after his exertions for Croatia at Euro 2012. But Moyes still had Phil Neville to call on for marshalling his troops at the back with Sylvain Distin alongside him and Jack Rodwell patrolling the midfield as they build up for their opening-day Premiership clash with Man United on August 20.
Everton, urged on by their small band of travelling fans, began brightly with Victor Anichebe crossing for Seamus Coleman who was about to pull the trigger only for United full-back Keith Watson to come across and clear the danger.
Then, on 15 minutes, youngster Rodwell tried his luck from 25-yards to force a fine diving save from United’s new Polish keeper Rado Cierzniak who looked well-equipped between the sticks.
At the other end, United broke swiftly down the right with striker Johnny Russell finding some space.
Russell’s low cross was met by Gardyne and he turned quickly before unleashing a left-foot shot which visiting keeper Tim Howard did well to hold.
On 20 minutes, the home team put together a flowing move which saw Armstrong feed Gardyne whose lay-off found Russell.
With just one touch to control, Russell lashed a shot goal-wards which fizzed just inches over Howard’s bar.
Ten minutes before half-time, Howard misjudged Gary Mackay-Steven’s in-swinging corner but luckily for the Toffees keeper, Sean Dillon couldn’t make contact at the far post.
The Goodison Park outfit threw on Belgian playmaker Marouane Fellaini after the break and he wasted no time in trying to stamp his authority on proceedings.
Sisco then became the first player to be booked in 54 minutes for scything down United’s Gardyne.
Minutes later, Russell used his pace to surge clear of the Everton defence but his shot was saved comfortably by Howard.
Both sides put in plenty effort in search of a winner right up until the dying minutes but it was the visitors who struck with three minutes left and they now continue their pre-season tour of Scotland when they face Champions League hopefuls Motherwell on Saturday.
Houston praised their opponents who agreed to the re-arranged date following the unexpected call-off.
He said: “We won’t come up against a side of Everton’s quality every week.
“They passed the ball very well although I was pleased with our performance.
“It’s always good to test yourself against quality English opposition and we’ll learn a lot from this experience.”
DUNDEE UNITED: Cierzniak, Dillon (McLean 73) Douglas, Gunning, Russell, Ryan (Millar 67) Mackay-Steven (Dow 46) Watson, Gardyne (Daly 58) Armstrong (Flood 67) Rankin.
EVERTON: Howard, Hibbert, Neville, Distin, Duffy, Rodwell (Marouane 46) Sisco (Barkley 55) Osman, Coleman, Anichebe (Garbutt 70) McAleny (Vellios 63).