Fulham 1 v 3 Everton: Subs Increase Momentum as Toffees record fifth straight win to move within four points of increasingly nervous Arsenal
In doing so Everton have set up the mother of all six-pointers with the Gunners heading to Goodison Park next Sunday.
[quote]As good as Barkley has been this season, he could learn a lot from the way Naismith played in the number 10 role. He was a joy to watch.”[/quote]
It was the first time since 2002 that Everton had recorded five straight wins but rarely have consecutive wins been as well-timed as this one.
Hitting top form just when it matters to put the heat firmly on Arsenal, means this truly is a time to be excited. Everton are in full swing at the business end of the season and Europe’s top table could well be making room for the School of Science next season.
Once again Everton started the game slowly. Failing to show much attacking threat to a Fulham side desperate to ease their relegation worries, it was the home side who created numerous chances as Everton laboured throughout the first half.
The blues were thankful to Tim Howard for keeping them in the game as Dembele and then Kieron Richardson threatened to break the deadlock.
Everton were poor in the first half. Our only genuine opportunity came through a counter-attack that immediately followed Howard’s save from Richardson. Deulofeu on a surging run, raced from inside his own half and deep into Fulham territory before seeing his low shot saved by the feet of Stockwell.
Half time came as a welcome relief for Everton. We looked tired and found it difficult to impose ourselves on the game. Fulham looked like they wanted it more than us frankly.
A manager earns his crust at half time and once again the opportunity for Martinez to get into his players proved the turning point in the match. We looked a totally different side from the outset of the second half; helped massively by the introduction of Steven Naismith who, after coming on for the injured Barkley, gave a masterclass in the number 10 role.
Naismith’s movement and desire to get on the ball placed Fulham firmly on the back foot and gave Everton a semblance of control in a match that had passed them by in the first half.
Everton’s bright start to the second half was rewarded in the 50th minute; Naismith waited on the edge of the 18 yard box and as the ball fell, he let fly from the edge of the box. His low shot struck William Kvist before going in off Stockdale.
Fulham equalised in the 71st minute through Dejagah, who cut across the edge of the box before smashing an unstoppable right foot effort past the sprawling Howard. It was a great strike but the move should never have been allowed to happen with Naismith clearly fouled prior to Fulham equalising.
Fulham, now galvanised by the equalizer, pressed for more and Howard was called into action to deny former blue Heitinga and Kasami. But the blues were not to be denied.
A superbly waited pass from McGeady (only on the pitch for a few minutes) fizzed into Mirallas was greeted with an equally impressive first touch to send the Belgian clear to finish confidently and put the Blues back in front.
Everton’s dominance in the second half was eventually crowned with a well deserved goal from the impressive Naismith. Ref Anthony Taylor allowed play to continue after waving away a penalty claim, a situation normally met with exasperation.
It didn’t matter on this occasion as Naismith made sure of the win with a close-range finish.
The first half was one to forget for Everton but the second half was a return to the class and swagger in our play that has been a feature of Martinez first season.
Naismith has been a huge bonus for Martinez. He looks a new signing for us and as good as Barkley has been this season, he could learn a lot from the way Naismith played in the number 10 role. He was a joy to watch.
A special mention is reserved for John Stones. I have rarely seen such a talent. Positionally faultless and a Bobby Moore esq
penchant for strolling out of defence with the ball. Stones is a truly marvelous player who I hope will go on to captain us for many years.
The game once again highlighted Martinez’s excellent use of the squad. Countless times this season he has changed the outcome of games with his substitutions and tactical switches The introductions of Everton subs Naismith, Mcgeady and Mirallas were proof that Martinez knows when to strike to turn a game.
Albeit Naismith was on due to Barkley’s injury, but his desire to make an impact on the game is testament to Martinez’s man management of players. They know it’s a squad game and the reactions of the bench as well as in the stands shows we are truly all in this together.
One goal is clear now. I hate talk of fans settling for fifth; this run of results has the Champions League door wedged open for us and we must leave nothing left on the pitch. If we win all of our games and we have won the last five, then we will be in the Champions League next season.
We have momentum, we have the quality and we have the Manager to do it; so let’s believe.
Make no mistake, Arsenal were not expecting this. They were challenging for the title and now they’re clinging onto a Champions League place. We must be ready for any emotional frailties Arsenal have on the pitch. A win next week will put us within one point, and with Crystal Palace at Goodison Park to follow, the time is now blues.
Roberto Martinez has been a revelation this season. A return to the values of the club with a desire to move us on has seen us progress points wise and style wise.
You could see the Martinez determination in the way he celebrated our goals; both fiercely determined and tactically astute, these are great attributes to have.
Add that to the quality we have and we should fear nothing in our quest for Champions League football.
Believe it Blues! This is our time.
[quote]Being in this position gives us an understanding of what a good season we’ve had.” Roberto Martinez[/quote]
Now it’s time to believe a good season will end up a memorable one.