Two positives may finally have emerged from Rafa Benitez’s bleak stint as Everton manager

Vitalii Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson impressed for Everton in their Merseyside derby draw against Liverpool.

The less said about Rafa Benitez's spell as Everton boss to fans, the better.

Indeed, the Spaniard's six-and-a-half month reign in the Goodison Park hot seat is a dark chapter in the club's rich history.

It's a period that makes supporters shudder just at the thought of it.

One many felt was doomed as soon as he was confirmed as Carl Ancelotti's successor. And not just because he was a former Liverpool manager.

The ire of those thousands of loyal followers who watched the insipid 2-1 loss against Norwich, bottom of the table at the time, was laid bare at Carrow Road.

Unrest among fans was a nadir. Enthusiasm was completely attenuated.

Everton fans raise a banner aimed at Rafa Benitez. Photo: Stephen Pond/Getty Images

It's the stark contract at the current juncture of Frank Lampard's tenure.

While Lampard has nine fewer points in the opening six games of the 2022-23 season than Benitez did 12 months ago - and is without a win - optimism is rampant.

After guiding Everton to Premier League safety after replacing Benitez, the time to fully judge Lampard was going to start when he had his first full transfer window and pre-season to work with his squad.

This summer's recruitment has generally been saluted as key areas have been addressed

Amadou Onana and James Garner look sage purchases for the future, while Conor Coady, James Tarkowski and Idrissa Gueye are awash with experience. There's a balance to the dressing room.

Certainly, encouraging signs were aplenty in the Blues' goalless draw against Liverpool in the Merseyside derby on Saturday.

Everton more-than-matched a side that was two games away from achieving an unprecedented quadruple last season.

There was a bevy of strong performances.

Jordan Pickford claimed the majority of the man-of-the-match plaudits but the displays of Vitalii Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson were also lauded.

Indeed, the pair were signed in the final days of Benitez's time in charge.

They were funded by the sale of Lucas Digne to Aston Villa - a decision that caused some backlash at the time.

But their heroic efforts against Liverpool - shackling two of the best forwards in the Premier League - spoke volumes about their ability.

It took until stoppage-time for Mo Salah to threaten Everton's goal as he saw his shot fingertipped onto the post by Pickford.

For the previous 90-odd minutes, Salah offered scant threat. Mykolenko displayed solidity and nous to quell the Egyptian.

Mykolenko's made steady strides on Merseyside since joining from Dynamo Kyiv. What makes his improvements more remarkable is that his homeland of Ukraine remains under siege from Russia.

On the opposite flank, Patterson delivered another eye-catching game. The 20-year-old was making just his sixth Everton start - and 19th in his senior career.

The only chance the usually-tigerish Luis Diaz had was when he hit the post in the 43rd after Darwin Nunez had struck the bar and defensive shape was broken.

Nathan Patterson battles Luis Diaz during Everton’s Merseyside derby draw against Liverpool. Picture: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

The Toffees were patient with Patterson following his arrival from Rangers. Then, on the eve of making a Premier League debut against West Ham in April, he suffered an ankle injury that required surgery.

Patterson was renowned as an attack-minded right-back when he was recruited from Ibrox.

But it was his defensive work which was the most impressive in the Liverpool draw.

He made five successful tackles, eight recoveries, blocked one shot, made one interception and one clearance. A herculean out.

Indeed, Lampard has to take plenty of credit for Mykolenko and Patterson's progress.

Undoubtedly, the pair have benefited significantly from working with him and one of the Premier League's all-time greatest full-backs in Ashley Cole.

And what proved a bleak managerial stint under Benitez, two positives may finally have come from it.