LIVERPOOL, January 7 – Everton manager Roberto Martinez believes his side’s fightback to earn an FA Cup replay against West Ham United could be the turning point in their season.
The Toffees were on the brink of elimination from the competition at the end of the 90 minutes against West Ham after defender James Collins had headed the visitors in front early in the second half.
But Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku ensured their third-round tie finished 1-1 when he got on the end of Bryan Oviedo’s cross in injury time and smashed the ball home from close range.
Lukaku’s late equaliser also took some of the heat off Martinez, who had been under pressure following a run of four consecutive defeats before this game.
“I am pleased with the character and our never-give-up attitude. It could easily be a turning point in our season,” said Martinez.
“That could really get us out of the moment we have. When you get into that wrong dynamic when everything that can goes wrong and you can feel sorry for yourself, I don’t think the players accepted that.
“It felt like a win going into the dressing room. Many people would say you don’t want an extra game. We embrace it. To still be involved in the FA Cup is a real positive.
“It is a bit of a snowball reaction when you get good results, you get confidence and get better.”
– scoring spree –
Martinez, who confirmed the absence of left-back Leighton Baines from the side was not serious, believes Lukaku’s goal can now help him go on scoring spree.
“The whole week he has trained very well,” Martinez said. “His attitude was perfect. Romelu at his best will change games. We carry a different threat with him.
“I was really pleased with his attitude showing real responsibility and maturity. In a period like ours you have two options, you can shy away and hide or you can take responsibility.
“Five defeats would have been very damaging but you always get an opportunity to win the next game.
“At the moment the FA Cup is such an important competition for us it would have been a horrendous setback. It is very important we are still in the cup and now look forward to the next game in the league, still aware we are in a bad run.”
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce admitted his side must learn to handle Lukaku after the Toffees forward notched his fourth goal in as many matches against the Hammers.
“That man scored against us again,” Allardyce said. “Every time he plays against us he seems to score. We could have got a better cushion but I’m pleased with the efforts of the players.
“The lads played well considering some of them haven’t played as much as we like. But we could have done so much better for the equaliser.
“We got a little desperate and instead of defending in the wide areas we let Oviedo in.
“We could have done better, relieved the pressure, stayed on our feet, so it is really disappointing when it is so late in the game. It is never a particularly easy place to come to but we were more than a match for Everton.”
Allardyce confirmed striker Andy Carroll had missed the tie through injury but should be fit enough for their Premier League clash away to Swansea.
“He kicked the floor in training and bruised his foot,” Allardyce added. “But he will be fit and well for Saturday.”