Opportunities gone

Tuesday night's game was an opportunity for some players on the fringe of the squad to really step up to the mark and make a name for themselves.

For many of them, given the performances they subsequently put in, you wouldn't have thought that was the case at all.

Chances like this don't come around very often, especially when a new manager is trying to decipher what his best side is.

And the majority of those who were given the opportunity made sure there were even less matches in the future for them to potentially have another swing.

Rafa Benitez made five changes to his side from the defeat to Aston Villa at the weekend, no doubt having one eye on the match with Norwich and being very aware of the injury-depleted nature of his squad.

If Everton missed key players at Villa Park on Saturday, they were absolutely desperate for a few of them on this occasion. What a difference someone like Richarlison or Dominic Calvert-Lewin might have made to this side.

But, in truth, the quality of players on display should still have been good enough to get the job done. They just did not perform when it mattered.

Andre Gomes has been impressive in his cameo appearances from the bench over the last few weeks, but when placed into central midfield with Tom Davies neither could get a grip on the match at all.

Too often there was a Queens Park Rangers player in yards of space in the middle of the pitch. Too often would Everton moves break down when they got to that area.

A few shots off target were the standout factor of Gomes' performance. For Davies, it was the weak penalty which ultimately proved to be the decider of this clash.

But they were far from the only ones.

In the absence of Seamus Coleman through injury, Jonjoe Kenny was given an almost priceless chance to prove himself after a summer of speculation over his long-term future at the club.

However, instead QPR targeted his position down the right flank in the first half, and that's where they had far too much joy to try and break down the visiting defence.

Alex Iwobi, after a promising beginning to his campaign, let this match pass him by far too easily. He'll be rueing a missed one-on-one in the first half that looked easier to score.

Some mitigating factors play a part for others, with Salomon Rondon and Ben Godfrey still working their way back to full fitness seemingly at the minute.

But there were far too many players who had glaring opportunities to impress pass them by on Tuesday evening.

If anything, they've made Benitez's job a little easier for when key players are back to full fitness.

READ MORE: Everton player ratings as only Anthony Gordon and two others turn up at QPR

Top Townsend

Among what was a horrible showing from most of the Everton squad, however, there were still thankfully a few highlights to make note of.

Anthony Gordon was one of those. His tenacious attitude out-of-possession set a tone that too few of his teammates eventually followed.

On the other flank, though, Andros Townsend again was a step apart from anyone else in the visiting squad.

He almost single-handedly proved to be the saviour again. If the Blues had eventually won the lottery of a penalty shootout, they would have certainly had the summer signing to thank.

Throughout the game, he was one of very few players who kept up the attitude that Benitez had championed in other matches. Hard work, direct attacking play, energy.

His delivery from the right flank was a constant threat throughout the 90 minutes and again he proved just how dangerous he can be once again with one of the only moments of quality the Blues could produce in the first half.

His delightful chipped pass over the top of the defence after spotting the run of Lucas Digne took out the entire back line from the hosts and was perfectly in the path of the France international for him to produce a great finish at the near post.

In the second half, he took the opportunity to get on the scoresheet himself.

It won't be challenging his incredible strike against Burnley for goal of the month any time soon, but they all count and it came at what should have been a crucial point for his side.

After the half time interval, he set the tone for what should have been to follow by making sure he was in the right place at the right time - making no mistake with his finish.

Whenever he received possession after that, it was clear to see the QPR defence were extra wary of what he might produce. He had the ability to both get to the byline and put in a dangerous cross into the area.

In fact, he even took some of Everton's best corners of the game with his weaker foot.

He might not have been the big-name winger that Blues supporters were expecting to sign in the summer transfer window, but he's proving himself to be every bit the right player for this club.

He's buying into what it means to be a success at Everton, not just with his hard-working nature but with his inherent quality shining through as well.

Even after performances such as this, those attributes will be appreciated.

Missing transfers

What can't really be argued after this match is that Everton were really missing a fair few players of quality across the pitch.

The club had their hands tied over what they could really achieve in the transfer market thanks to financial fair play rules. In fact, the club are still navigating their way around those with the potential sale of James Rodriguez.

However, it doesn't take away from the gaping holes that are prevalent in the side. Everyone in the stands could see it, as could everyone watching at home.

The failure to bring in a right-back, whether a long-term successor to Seamus Coleman or a short-term option, is already beginning to hit home in the absence of the captain.

Suddenly the Blues look short in central midfield. The striker that did come to the club is not yet match ready, certainly not to be starting two matches in the space of a few days anyway.

And now, Everton will be sweating over the potential fitness of Lucas Digne too.

The left-back was having one of the better performances of many on the pitch (although that's not saying too much) after coming off in the 80th minute of the game.

An ankle problem was the reason. Benitez later confirmed that he doesn't think it will be serious, but the France international does need to be checked.

Having let Niels Nkounkou go out on loan, with Theirry Small also leaving and with Fabian Delph currently injured - Ben Godfrey would be the back-up option in that area.

And you could certainly argue that he's still not up to his full fitness after missing the opening matches of the campaign.

To leave themselves so short in crucial areas of the pitch, despite the financial situation, is already being seen by many as a failure.

Those issues were glaring on Tuesday night.

Pressure on

After one defeat of the season, especially with the injury situation that Everton faced, there was a lot of understanding from supporters in the aftermath.

The Blues shouldn't have lost against Aston Villa by the scoreline they did, even if *that* nine minutes of the second half showcased a lot of worrying signs.

There was still a fair amount of promise when looking at the game as a whole, however, and a lot of fans were not letting themselves get too concerned.

This result might be a little different, however.

Now, of course, there are still mitigating factors to this defeat at QPR as well.

The injury situation didn't improve before this game, yet more changes were made to the side and Everton had a number of starting players who were clearly not at full fitness.

All that being considered, this result still raises much more difficult questions.

Any fingers being pointed at the manager are wildly off, as we all know that this squad has done exactly this kind of result in the past before.

But, regardless, it makes the visit of Norwich to Goodison Park on Saturday a real must-win.

The Canaries will make the trip to Merseyside having lost their last 15 matches in the Premier League. Already there have been Everton supporters trying to guess where this ends...

The Blues cannot allow that to happen, however. Three defeats in the space of eight days, including an exit from a cup competition, would be absolutely draining.

The mood around the club was high when entering the match with Aston Villa. It managed to stay at a reasonable level even despite defeat against Dean Smith's side.

But, after this shocker of a League Cup loss, anything less than a win against Norwich City at the weekend becomes unacceptable.

It's up to these players to show what they've got now.