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Stoke City (A) Wed 4 Mar 2015, 19:45, Barclays Premier League

by Adam Clark @efc_adamclark

Thomas Hitzlsperger admitted he was pleased to make his first Everton start on Saturday and put months of frustration behind him.

The former Germany international replaced Phil Neville for the Blues’ 2-1 defeat at Reading after the 35-year-old Club captain underwent a knee operation on Friday.

Hitzlsperger’s inclusion was reward for overcoming his own long-term injury problems and release by homeland club Wolfsburg at the end of last season.

And while the 30-year-old understandably felt disheartened by the result, his 81-minute run-out was a giant step towards rediscovering full match fitness.

“Personally, I was pleased to be in the team and to start the game but second half we just didn't show anything like we did in the first half and that's why we lost the game,” said Hitzlsperger, who also played five minutes at the end of Everton’s 2-1 win over Sunderland last weekend. “We gave away too many free-kicks, too many corners, and the set plays lost us the game.

“I wish we had won the game, it would have been a lot better, a lot sweeter. But I'm happy I've started the game today and hopefully there will be more starts for myself and more wins for the team.”

Despite taking the lead through Steven Naismith’s 10th-minute strike, the Blues were pegged back in Berkshire, ultimately succumbing to a second-half brace from Adam Le Fondre.

At 1-0, the visitors appeared to have two strong penalty appeals waved away – first when Naismith was challenged by Kaspars Gorkss, then when Sean Morrison looked to have handled in the box.

“I didn't see them but the lads saw them and said they were clear penalties,” revealed Hitzlsperger. “It's disappointing because I don't think that's the first time [this season].

“I think if we had scored a couple more goals in the first half, the game would have been over. But that shouldn't be an excuse. We definitely did not play well enough in the second half to win the game.”

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