It may not have been the prettiest game of football but goals from Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith sent Everton back into the Premier League’s top 10.
QPR had found a little bit of form coming into this Monday night encounter but the clinical Blues – admittedly not at their best – ran out 3-1 winners, only losing their clean sheet to a second half Bobby Zamora tap-in.
Martinez was able to call on the services of fit-again duo Naismith and John Stones from hamstring and ankle injuries respectively, with the Scot able to start the contest.
Joey Barton was a young player at Everton in his early career and it was the QPR midfielder who was on hand to stop a rampaging early run from Seamus Coleman. Despite the Irishman’s protests that it was a foul, the saving tackle was deemed fair by referee Neil Swarbrick.
A simply brilliant first-time pass from Barkley – operating as one of the two holding midfielders in Martinez’s 4-2-3-1 system – played in Naismith, this time down the left. As the Scot controlled, he spotted Lukaku’s lung-busting run into the box, but his pass just evaded the big striker.
Neither side were really carving out clear cut chances during the opening 20 minutes, with the Blues failing to find their rhythm, with misplaced passes and the hardworking pressing of the visitors contributing to a nervy opening.
Junior Hoilet chanced his arm from long range but Howard was always behind the effort, while Robert Green was equally comfortable with a Naismith drive.
The Scotland international was denied an even better chance by his own team-mate minutes later. When Barkley swept a pass out for Coleman, his first-time cross superbly picked out Naismith - but his goal-bound volley bounced off Lukaku and was hacked away from danger.
But then Barkley – who had been busy creating the better openings for the hosts - decided to take matters into his own hands.
Picking up possession inside his own half, he raced past a couple of QPR midfielders, played a one-two with Lukaku, beat one more defender and arrowed a left-footed screamer past Green.
Things got even better just four minutes later. Winning a free-kick 25 yards out, Mirallas – thanks to a deflection off the wall - saw his shot wrong-foot Green and into the net.
Two came within a whisker of being three within a matter of seconds but Aiden McGeady’s curling effort flew the wrong side of the post. With that, the half drew to a close.
Just because Everton were two goals to the good did not mean they were settling for what they had. Fine work from Muhamed Besic saw him win the ball then release Mirallas down the left. As the Belgian drove past Richard Dunne, he took a tumble but Swarbrick was not interested in the Belgian’s penalty pleas.
It wasn’t long though before the Blues added to their tally. Green miscued a kick straight up in the air, Dunne’s attempted control went straight to Mirallas, who found McGeady on the right. The winger stood up a cross to the unmarked Naismith, who directed his header past the QPR keeper and in.
The Hoops, to their credit, still tried to carve out an opening but the impressive Besic was marshalling the defensive Blue wall with authority. As such, the R’s were limited to long range efforts for much of the second period, which hardly troubled Howard.
The Toffees meanwhile, had the odd chance themselves but some resolute defending from the Londoners halted their attempts to find a fourth,
On came Steven Pienaar for McGeady to try and add a little more nous going forward and he was soon followed onto the pitch by Samuel Eto’o, with Lukaku making way.
But it was the visitors who added to the evening’s goals. After Mutch found room in the box, his shot was palmed straight into the path of Zamora, who couldn’t miss from five yards out.
Perhaps frustrated that their clean sheet had been snatched away from them, the Blues responded, Barkley laying on another fine pass for Coleman. The full-back only had one thing in mind, unleashing a ferocious drive that was beaten away by Green.
Late in the contest, Mirallas was stretched off following a crude challenge from Mutch, with Arouna Kone playing the final moments of a game in which Everton collected a much-needed three points.
Three goals it stayed for the Blues, despite Eto’o hitting a post late on. Not the best but the Toffees had done enough.