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Fulham 1-3 Everton Prem 32 1314 Daily Telegraph

last updated Monday 31st March 2014, 12:53 PM
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Matt Law at Daily Telegraph

Fulham (0) 1-3 (0) Everton

Arsène Wenger's neck ache will be feeling a little more painful as he keeps a worried eye on Everton's charge towards the Champions League places.

Everton secured a fifth successive Premier League victory for the first time since 2002, beating Fulham to move four points behind Arsenal with a game in hand with the prospect of hosting Wenger and his team next.

Wenger has admitted that Everton have got him looking over his shoulder and the Frenchman is right to be taking the Merseyside club's challenge seriously.

This might be new territory for Everton manager Roberto Martinez in terms of fighting for fourth place, but the Spaniard is used to staging late rallies with former club Wigan.

Having kept Wigan in the Premier League against the odds, before finally suffering relegation, and unexpectedly winning last season's FA Cup, Martinez said: "Of course, that gives me confidence.

"The intensity of every game is important and it doesn't matter if you are fighting to avoid relegation, win a title or finish in the top four - it's the same. You need to gain momentum and find a real focus in the squad. I wouldn't say [it would be a] 'miracle', but football miracles happen."

Arsenal will be hoping to avoid the all-too-familiar scenario of a final-day fourth-place shoot-out, which Martinez believes is looks likely.

"I think it will go down to the last day," said Martinez. "Nobody will stop fighting. Every game in this League is down to small margins. With the amount of points we have that we have a realistic chance to fight for that [top four] aim.

"We admire Arsenal and know how they've got in to the Champions League for the last 18 years, or whatever. That gives an understanding of what to do in these games. Arsenal looking over their shoulder is a great compliment for us, but we are looking over our shoulder as well.

"There may be more pressure on them, but they cope with that expectation. When you start the season, there are six football clubs with the budget to cope with that expectation. They need to be coping with that expectation.

"We always embrace the challenge. We really enjoy playing at Goodison. We've created an incredible relationship between fans and players. The fans have been patient, we feel supported and feel we've got a real advantage playing at home.

We've got Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Crystal Palace at home, and they are as difficult as they can get. But even then we feel if we can be perfect in what we do, we can get maximum points."

For 45 minutes against Fulham, it was hard to see how Everton had sneaked up on to the coattails of the top four. But Martinez proved that, while Arsenal struggle with injuries, he has got plenty of options.

Ross Barkley felt a tight calf, but Martinez insisted he would have put on Steven Naismith at half-time regardless. Whether or not that is the case, the introduction of the Scot changed the course of the game.

Naismith, 27, produced the volley from Kieran Richardson's headed clearance that eventually bounced into the net off the unfortunate Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale.

The Scotsman made sure of all three points for Everton by converting a Leighton Baines cross three minutes from full time.

In between, Ashkan Dejagah had given Fulham hope by stepping off the bench to score a wonderful equaliser before two more Everton substitutes, Aiden McGeady and Kevin Mirallas, combined for the Belgian to restore his side's lead.

"The biggest compliment I can pay my players is that I can select any XI from our squad and be confident that we can play the way I want to play and show the concepts we have as a team," said Martinez. "I always believe that we are going to be as good as the squad.

The days that you can rely on 11 players are gone. That is how you judge at the end of the season how successful you can be as a team. The fresh legs of Steven Naismith and at the right time with Kevin Mirallas and Aiden McGeady gave us a different spark."

Bottom-of-the-table Fulham are now five points off safety with just six games remaining, which leaves manager Felix Magath with an almost impossible task.

"It was a very important game, which, unfortunately, we lost," said the German. "It was very, very disappointing but if you saw how we played it gives you another view. It was our best game until now, we created lots of chances."

Asked if he was already planning for the Championship, Magath replied: "No. I know that we can still make it. I think we need four victories and there are enough games. Whatever happens, I will be here next season. You will see me again."

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