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EVERTON will monitor the fitness of Phil Neville after the captain limped off against Newcastle United.
Playing in central midfield, Neville was forced off after 52 minutes at St James’ Park on Saturday afternoon with a hamstring strain, replaced by Johnny Heitinga.
The extent of Neville’s injury is not yet known but the former England international underwent assessment at Everton’s Finch Farm training ground yesterday.
Neville is likely to miss Wednesday night’s match at home to Birmingham City given the nature of his injury, adding to a growing list of players on the treatment table.
The captain was used alongside Jack Rodwell at the heart of Everton’s midfield on Saturday with Marouane Fellaini out for the remainder of the campaign and Tim Cahill nursing a foot injury.
Meanwhile, ahead of the visit of recently crowned Carling Cup winners Birmingham, defender Phil Jagielka is confident Everton can make it three Premier League wins in a row – but is under no illusions the second city side present a stern test.
The England defender put Everton ahead at the weekend, converting Leighton Baines’ free-kick into the area – a first goal since October 2008.
“It has been a long time coming. I nearly missed it but thankfully it went in off the underside of the bar,” said Jagielka of his agile finish.
“But all credit goes to the ball in from Bainesy, he made it easy enough for me to stick a leg out.
“Ossie came back shortly after they’d scored and we gathered momentum and went 2-1 up.
“Towards the end it could have been three or four.
“It’s typical Everton – when people start shovelling it forward we get the blocks in and win the headers. It was a fantastic team performance and we are more than happy with the three points.
“Things are looking up.
“We just need to keep picking up points. It’s not been the best of seasons by any stretch of the imagination but if we finish well like we did last season hopefully the fans will have something to shout about.
“We know Birmingham will be a hard game, hopefully we can put in a good performance and get three points.”
PHIL JAGIELKA says Everton are determined to make amends for their poor season – as he admitted his first goal of the season could not have arrived at a better time.
The England defender poked home his fourth goal in an Everton shirt during the first half of Everton’s 2-1 win at Newcastle on Saturday.
And the close-range strike from a superb Leighton Baines delivery secure the three points which Jagielka acknowledges must herald an upturn in consistency for the Blues – starting by winning their game in hand against Birmingham on Wednesday.
He said: “We just need to keep picking up points. It’s not been the best of seasons by any stretch of the imagination but if we finish well like we did last season hopefully the fans will have something to shout about.
“We know Birmingham will be a hard game, hopefully we can put in a good performance and get three points.
“It (his goal) has been a long time coming. I nearly missed it but thankfully it went in off the underside of the bar.
“But all credit goes to the ball in from Bainesy, he made it easy enough for me to stick a leg out!”
Jagielka believes the triumph was deserved for Everton’s defensive steel and threat on the counter attack.
He said: “Ossie came back shortly after they’d scored and we gathered momentum and went 2-1 up. Towards the end it could have been three or four.
“It’s typical Everton – when people start shovelling it forward we get the blocks in and win the headers. It was a fantastic team performance and we are more than happy with the three points.”
Meanwhile Marouane Fellaini has denied claims attributed to his father, that Everton are to blame for the ankle injury that ended his season against Sunderland.
In an interview with a Belgian newspaper Abdelatiff Fellaini was reported to have claimed that his son should not have started against Steve Bruce’s side because he was already carrying an injury.
“I am aware of comments that have appeared in the media and all I can say is that I was fit to play against Sunderland,” said Fellaini.
“I trained well the day before and I wouldn’t play in such an important game if I wasn’t ready for it and I wouldn’t be selected if I wasn’t fit enough.”
It is the second season in succession that an injury has curtailed the in-form Fellaini’s campaign and he is dejected by the fresh set-back.
“I am bitterly disappointed to have my season ended early but these things happen in football and I just have to work through it,” he said.
“It happens and nobody is to blame.”
The Blues lost another player, skipper Phil Neville to a hamstring injury, on Saturday as the 34-year-old limped off 51 minutes.
Assistant manager Steve Round confirmed Neville had felt a slight problem and would have the severity of the injury assessed at Finch Farm today.
Phil Jagielka admits Everton are having their “most frustrating” season for years.
An expert dismantling of Newcastle, despite missing Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini, demonstrated the potential David Moyes’ side have to be finishing at the top end of the table.
But in midweek they lost at home to Reading, blowing a glorious chance to challenge for the FA Cup, leaving Jagielka mystified about his club’s tendency to swing from extremes of performance.
This was Everton’s first away win of the year – it should have been even more comprehensive – and if some of the seven draws on their travels had been converted to victories they’d be flying.
Match-winner Jagielka said: “The main emotion is frustration. It has been a long season – from the heights of winning derby games to the lows of FA Cup ties. It has been such an up and down season, not only for the players and fans but also the manager. It is probably the most frustrating it has ever been.
“It doesn’t look like there is much to go for in the league, we will try and go as high as we can but the cup was our last hope of making the season special.
“For instance in midweek, if we didn’t have badges on our shirts you wouldn’t have known it was an Everton team. That is not the way we usually do things.
“We have watched the videos and talked about it and it’s gone.
“The gaffer has enjoyed today, he enjoyed the win. That is back-to-back wins in the league and hopefully we can keep going and going in the next few games.”
The mystery is why Everton play well in adversity and missing key players, rather than when at full strength. And Jagielka joked: “I think the gaffer is going to go for a squad of 12 next year, back to the old days.
“We had no strikers a couple of season ago, and Fellaini and Cahill playing up there. You can’t put your finger on it.”
Jagielka, who sneaked in behind Jose Enrique to blast home Leighton Baines’ deep free-kick, added: “I can’t remember the last time I scored a goal, never mind a winner. I know I am minus one for the season with two own goals and that one in the plus column.”
It completed a fine first-half recovery. Leon Osman levelled by winning the ball 60 yards from goal, galloping forward and releasing Mikel Arteta who Newcastle repeatedly failed to lay a tackle on. The Spaniard danced into the box and squared for Osman to slot home with ease.
Newcastle opened the scoring when Kevin Nolan’s cross-shot was pushed out for Leon Best to score his sixth goal in 10 starts.
The Geordies were poor, and badly missed Joey Barton on the right, although most of the side were below par. Defeat leaves them looking over their shoulders rather than pushing on. They appear to have almost done enough but a very bad return from the run-in could leave them vulnerable.
Keeper Steve Harper admitted: “It is only people outside the club who have ever assumed that we would be okay from relegation.
“We, the players, take nothing for granted and we’ve got nine games left to get as many points as possible. At this club whenever we win a few games people start talking about Europe. That’s the way it always has been and it is the way it always will be.
“But at the start of the year our aim was to stay up and that still remains the case. The sooner we can do that the better.
“We knew there would be highs and lows and difficult patches. People said it would be our home form that would keep us up but in fact it’s not worked out like that.
“We’ve improved our away form immensely and we’ve got a lot of points on our travels.
“But we’ve got to get this monkey off our backs, not being able to win at 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon – it is now 15 games. We need to change that in our next game, at home to Wolves."
Four points adrift of the top six at the final whistle, yet only six points clear of the relegation places. Newcastle and Everton are two teams who still don't know what the final weeks of the season will bring them. Both epitomise the inconsistency of so many Premier League teams, which explains why a remarkably high number are still eyeing the Europa League after any win – and worrying about the Championship in the wake of any defeat.
Everton are particularly unpredictable, their feeble FA Cup surrender against Reading followed by this gutsy performance after they went behind to a Leon Best goal.
Leon Osman equalised and Phil Jagielka, whose committed defending typified their approach, added the winner, with all the goals coming in the first half.
For Jagielka, it was a performance that revived memories of previous seasons when Everton consistently defied the odds: "The main emotion is frustration. It has been a long season for the manager and players, from the heights of winning derby games to the lows of the FA Cup. It has been such an up and down season, not only for the players and fans, but also the manager.
"In midweek, if we didn't have badges on our shirts you wouldn't have known it was an Everton team."
Deprived of influential figures Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill because of injuries, Everton relied on Mikel Arteta stepping up to banish bad memories of St James' Park. Seriously injured here two seasons ago, Arteta surprised Newcastle by slotting into a role on the left side of midfield and troubling makeshift right-back Steve Taylor throughout.
It was reminiscent of the make-do-and-mend approach that saw Everton enjoy their best season under David Moyes when Fellaini and Cahill played unfamiliar roles as strikers.
"We had that same resilience," Jagielka said. "I think the gaffer is going to go for a squad of 12 next year, back to the old days. We had no strikers a couple of years ago, and Fellaini and Cahill played up there, so you can't put your finger on why it works for us."
The win should have been even more emphatic, but Louis Saha, Victor Anichebe and Seamus Coleman all wasted decent late opportunities to extend Everton's lead as their opponents vainly pressed for an equaliser.
AFTER the humiliation against Reading in the FA Cup came the heroics at St James’ Park as Everton came from behind to win and take a huge step nearer Premier League safety.
Phil Jagielka followed up his last Premier League goal more than three years ago with a winner which leaves Newcastle exposed.
In a five-minute spell of madness and mayhem in the first half, Leon Osman and Jagielka sealed Everton’s third away win of the campaign.
Jagielka said the defeat by Reading on Tuesday was about as low as it gets, with manager David Moyes at his wits end.
“It is probably the most frustrating it has ever been for the gaffer as it doesn’t look like there is much to go for in the league,” said Jagielka. “The cup was our last hope of making the season special.
“In midweek, if we didn’t have badges on our shirts you wouldn’t have known it was Everton. That is not the way we usually do things. We have watched the video of the game and talked about it and it has gone.
“It has been a topsy-turvy league this season. If you string three or four results together you can be close to the Champions League places, so it is really frustrating that we have been so inconsistent.
“But I sensed before kick-off against Newcastle that there was a real desire to do well after what happened on Tuesday.”
Towards the end it could have gone either way and Leon Best was unfortunate to have a second ‘goal’ disallowed for what appeared a fairly innocuous nudge on Jagielka. As it is, Alan Pardew has won four, lost four and drawn five in the league since taking over – much the same as Chris Hughton achieved prior to his dismissal in December.
Pardew has been shorn of Andy Carroll and the wisdom of that sale will continue to cause controversy on Tyneside, as Peter Lovenkrands looked hopelessly out of his depth here.
Pardew’s team should be safe as they have a fairly friendly run-in – although it does include trips to Chelsea and Liverpool – but this was a disjointed performance.
Their goalkeeper Steve Harper said: “It’s so close this season and that’s why this was a big opportunity for us to be sitting on 39 points in that top bracket.
“We have always known what could happen until we have got more points mathematically than the bottom three can get.
“The job is still there to be done, no doubt about it. The bottom three are now a little bit closer to us. It is only people outside the club who have ever assumed that we would be OK from relegation.
“The players take nothing for granted. At the start of the year our aim was to stay up and that still remains the case.”