As a result, Paul Jewell’s team arrived at Goodison with only pride and their places in the Rams’ squad for next term to play for.
So whilst Everton were far from their free-flowing best, the visitors added to the tension by posing a greater threat than anticipated.
It is a huge credit to David Moyes’ side that they overcame a tense first period to stamp their authority on proceedings and secure the win that not only extends their lead over the chasing pack in the hunt for fifth place, but also maintains the pressure on Liverpool with the fourth Champions League spot still in the balance.
Moyes had to mastermind this victory without the services of the injured quartet of Tim Cahill, James Vaughan, Steven Pienaar or Tony Hibbert. He was, however, able to welcome back into the fold Andrew Johnson and the fleet-footed hitman proved to be one of Everton’s best performers on a day when other key players were not in top form.
But it was Osman who proved the hero. How apt, considering the role in his development played by Derby – his loan spell at Pride Park in 2003 convincing Moyes the midfielder had a long-term role to play at Goodison.
It was a winning goal befitting a more enthralling match. But the key on this day was the result, not the performance. And after taking one point from the nine available ahead of this meeting, returning to winning ways was hugely satisfying.
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