FULHAM 1 (Dejagah 71) – EVERTON 3 (Stockdale 50 og, Mirallas 79, Naismith 87)
Returning to face the Gunners at Goodison next Sunday having pocketed six points on the road and a, not to be discounted, net improvement to goal difference of +5 is an achievement of the highest order. It bears repetition that Everton now sit 4 points and +18 to +19 in goal difference behind Arsenal and hold a game in hand.
Roberto Martinez may not have the players to enable rotation and competition in every position but in one crucial area he does; he has six players – Barkley, Deulofeu, McGeady, Mirallas, Naismith and Osman – competing to fill the three attacking-midfield slots behind Lukaku. Each offers a different skill-set. We can now see, as he settles, regains his fitness and gets used to the Premier League that McGeady has added significantly to the range of abilities which this group offer. Martinez has diversity and he has used it wisely. They have remained relatively fresh and all, even though team spirit is strong, must be repressing irritation or even better, anger, when they are omitted. This is good and they are hungry. Witness the super-charged ‘something to prove’ arrival on the Craven Cottage pitch of Kevin Mirallas. He was a 68th minute substitute and netted a delicious, delicate goal eleven minutes later, thanks to a clinical through ball from another sub, Aiden McGeady, who had been on for just two minutes. No coincidence that Roberto Martinez has made 13 goal-scoring substitutions so far this term; the bulk of them in these positions.
We’re not forgetting the other substitution. Forced, by an injury to Barkley it may have been, but Steven Naismith had probably the most complete 45 minutes of football he has had since his arrival at Everton. At times he pushed right up onto Lukaku’s shoulder but mostly he searched and found space just in front of the Fulham back line, linking play and making himself illusive and difficult to pick up. His goal, a three yard prod, looked simple, but as he has shown before in these goalmouth situations, he can quickly adjust and improvise, as he did here. No mistake he is a natural goalscorer.
Gerard Deulofeu has pace and the magic in his feet to conjure a match-winning moment. He is young and enthusiastic but still learning. He played wide-right on Sunday ahead of Seamus Coleman another player with magic in his feet and the ability to win matches. It was no coincidence that Coleman had to restrict his attacking instincts as he was given only nominal cover by the attack minded Deulofeu. It shouldn’t be an either-or situation; if Deulofeu helps Coleman we get to enjoy them both in the attacking third. The young Spaniard is great, we love him, but he needs to remember to play within the team structure and occasionally do some donkey work.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Stockdale; Riether, Heitinga, Hangelaand, Riise; Kvist (Woodrow 64), Sidwell; Kasami, Holtby, Richardson (Dejagah 64); Dembele (Roberts 81)
Unused subs: Stekelenburg, Diarra, Kačaniklić, Bent
EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Howard; Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Deulofeu (Mirallas 68), Barkley (Naismith 46), Osman© (McGeady 77); Lukaku
Unused subs: Robles, Garbutt, Alcaraz, Browning
Booked: Coleman, Baines
Ref: Anthony Taylor