AS THE clock struck eleven on Thursday night, Sky’s correspondent embedded at Finch Farm was left with only the arrival of Everton’s milk-man to discuss.

David Moyes had already tied-up the £3m signing of promising teenage defender John Stones, but the anticipated arrival of a showcase recruit had failed to materialise.

Across Merseyside TV sets in Blue households were turned off with weary resignation. A day which had briefly promised a revival of the deal to sign Leroy Fer, and then provided the titillation of a bid to land one of Spain’s leading strikers had ended without a significant addition to Moyes’ group of first team players.

Stones of course may well be a leading light of the future, but at just 18 the former Barnsley right-back cannot be expected to have an influence on Everton’s hopes for the top four this season.

That was supposed to be the remit of at least two new recruits, and the fact they did not arrive makes it impossible to avoid a sense of deflation around the club’s fortunes.

It remains frustrating that the Blues were unable to bid for transfer targets earlier in the month. It remains frustrating that circumstances, such as Fer’s damaged left knee, conspired against them as the clock ticked down.

Question marks cannot be avoided over how the eventual inactivity will influence Moyes’ decision on whether to sign a new contract.

But in the short-term, the only thing more disappointing than a fallow January would be the prospect of unrest among supporters unsettling the momentum of a club which still has plenty to play for.

Everton’s failure to add another striker or commanding midfielder is a missed opportunity, especially to gain an advantage when those around them did not strengthen either. But equally it should not signal the end of optimism. Far from it.

Moyes’ men remain only a point behind Tottenham, and have proved they have the quality to compete with anyone. Star names may have helped them crack on, but a squad with the best spirit in the top flight has come this far together. Let’s hope they find the drive to keep going from within.