There was little that was pretty about Everton's win over Hull – only their third at home this season – but it was built on solid foundations. This was a game that rarely looked like denying them a sixth clean sheet on the trot, with Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka unruffled in the centre of defence.
Lescott's three years at the club have been a model of the sort of stability and consistency for which managers long when they make a signing. Saturday was the former Wolves defender's 121st game in succession since joining Everton – a record beaten only by Jack Taylor when Victoria was still on the throne.
In Jagielka, he appears to have found his ideal partner, while another member of the back four, Leighton Baines, theorised in the match programme that the Premier League rarity of playing in an all-English defence had helped their communication in recent weeks. They will, however, face much sterner tests than this. A desperately poor Hull never looked capable of disrupting those lines of communication.
Their heady early days, when they could catch sides unawares, are gone. "We are getting a lot more respect now, but that is making it a lot harder to win games," said Hull's manager, Phil Brown, who is keen to add at least a couple of new players this week.
Everton's recent injuries to strikers could have made them equally desperate for new blood, but they have managed well. Part of the reason for that is the contribution of Marouane Fellaini, the gangly Belgian midfielder.
Both managers agreed he was fortunate to be credited with the first goal from an obviously offside position, but David Moyes was equally certain that he had been unlucky to be booked for a high foot. That could be right, but Fellaini was guilty of constant niggling before he saw his 10th yellow card of the season. He has committed far more fouls than anyone else in the league, so can hardly claim that his two-match ban has not been earned.
That will rule him out of the league and Cup double-header against Liverpool, something Everton can hardly afford, but at least Moyes has the consoling knowledge that things appear to be solid and stable at the other end of the pitch. He also has the dead-ball fire-power of Mikel Arteta, something that is always capable of producing a spectacular goal. His strike just before half-time was his third from a free-kick this season and a rare moment of attacking quality in a generally stodgy affair.
Goals: Fellaini (18) 1-0; Arteta (45) 2-0.
Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Lescott, Baines; Osman, Arteta (Rodwell, 90), Neville, Pienaar; Cahill (Anichebe, 73); Fellaini. Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Van der Meyde, Castillo, Jutkiewicz, Gosling.
Hull City (4-5-1): Myhill; McShane (Halmosi, 79), Turner, Zayatte, Ricketts; Mendy, Ashbee, Marney (Fagan, 54), Barmby, Geovanni (Cousin, 65); King. Substitutes not used: Duke (gk), Doyle, France, Boateng.
Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
Booked: Everton Fellaini, Cahill; Hull Geovanni, Mendy, Ricketts, Fagan, Zayatte.
Man of the match: Lescott.