Everton progressed into the FA Cup quarterfinals courtesy of a 3-1 win over Oldham Athletic, but supporters' hopes of star striker Nikica Jelavic ending his lengthy goal drought were not extinguished.
The Croatian last scored a goal for Everton in their FA Cup third-round victory at Cheltenham Town on Jan. 7, and has not hit the target at all in his nine appearances since then.
With Everton three goals up against the League One side at Goodison Park on Tuesday, there was only one statistic the supporters wanted changing.
Jelavic's goal tally.
As it turned out, the only remaining goal of the game went to Oldham substitute Matt Smith, much to the disappointment of Everton supporters and undoubtedly manager David Moyes.
Jelavic arrived from Rangers 13 months ago in a deal worth £5 million as the Glasgow giants hurtled towards administration.
The Croatian had proved himself consistently in the Scottish Premier League following his arrival from Rapid Vienna in August 2010.
Jelavic hit 19 goals in 31 appearances for the cash-strapped Glasgow giants, which proved invaluable as Walter Smith's team claimed the SPL title by just one point from Celtic.
The forward continued his form into the following season, adding 17 goals to his tally before moving to Merseyside.
The forward began his Goodison career with just one goal in six appearances, but that one goal was the match-winner in a 1-0 home win over Tottenham.
The Croatian went on to prove any doubters wrong, firing home 10 times in as many matches for the Blues before the end of the season.
There was an air of expectancy around Goodison at the start of the current campaign. After being starved of a significant goal threat in recent seasons, Everton now had a genuine contender to one day follow icons such as Graeme Sharp, Bob Latchford, Joe Royle and—whisper it—William Ralph Dean.
Everton supporters are brought up on the tales of magical forwards in the club's history, and the early indications were that Jelavic was the real deal.
However, those raised hopes have not been matched by Jelavic this season. Only a haul of three goals in successive matches against Southampton and Wigan have indicated what the player is capable of. He has only scored three times since then.
One of the inevitable sources of frustration for any striker over a goal drought is a lack of service. However, with Steven Pienaar and Leighton Baines marauding the left flank, such a concern is not open for debate at Goodison Park.
Indeed, Baines was declared the leading chance creator in Europe last month in opta stats for FourFourTwo magazine.
Moyes recognises how crucial a goal-scoring Jelavic is to his team's hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League this season, as he told reporters at the weekend (via Sky Sports).
However, the Croatian's percentage of shots on target has dropped from 58 percent to 40 percent, according to Goal.com. Meanwhile, his conversion rate is now running at 25 percent compared to 43 percent last season.
Moyes has dropped Jelavic to the bench in a bid to reignite his goal-scoring touch, but with little effect. His return to the starting lineup has offered no success, either.
Last season, Jelavic finished just two goals behind Suarez in the Premier League goal-scoring charts, despite playing half a season less than the Anfield man.
This year, however, it is Jelavic's lack of firepower which could see Everton overhauled in the final furlong by Suarez and his teammates.
Without a proven goal scorer, Everton's season rests on the FA Cup. With Jelavic back among the goals, it could end in silverware, the riches of the Champions League and perhaps Moyes ensuring his future is at Goodison Park.
These are testing times for Jelavic. Everton supporters will be hoping the Croatian can find the answers from somewhere. In fact, anywhere will do.
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