Neville: team spirit will lift Everton off bottom of table

Fulham 0 Everton 0
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The Independent Online

Bill Kenwright, the theatre impresario and Everton chairman, dropped in to visit his team on the eve of this game and deliver a pep-talk. There followed a match which evoked the old line: Much Ado About Nothing-Nothing.

This was not one of those goalless draws replete with goalmouth action, great saves and missed chances (Aiyegbeni Yakubu aside), but nor was it an ugly stalemate. Fulham and Everton both play attractive football but, mainly through injuries, lack penetration.

The draw was not, though, without consequence as it left Everton at the foot of the ladder. That took the gloss off a decent result, only the second time in 11 visits they had avoided defeat at Craven Cottage.

The Everton skipper, Phil Neville, said: "You come off the field quite pleased with the performance and find you're bottom of the league, but if you don't win football matches it's where you deserve to be."

Neville drew solace from history. He recalled: "When I joined the club five years ago we lost six of the first eight, including six on the trot. I couldn't see where the next win was coming from. I remember saying to Leon Osman, 'Do you think we'll go down?' He said, 'Don't worry. Everton are slow starters but the spirit will show through.'

"That comment has stayed with both of us ever since. The spirit now needs to shine through. I didn't know him that well at the time but I knew he had been at the club a long time and is blue through and through.

"We had qualified for the Champions League the previous season but that was a totally different kind of team – it was up-and-at-'em, in your faces. We have progressed from there. We have players who have played at World Cup finals. They think the quality needs to shine through now. It's time to stand up and be tough. That doesn't mean going out and kicking people, it means doing the right things all the time and winning football matches. There's no point feeling sorry for ourselves. We have to go to Birmingham next week and, at the moment, draws aren't good enough for us."

Five years ago the rot stopped with a draw against a west London club (Chelsea), the next game was at Birmingham. Everton won and finished 11th. They still aim to finish higher than that this season. In the meantime, a potentially fraught derby with their similarly underachieving neighbours beckons in a fortnight.

As for Fulham, the change in management from Roy Hodgson to Mark Hughes appears to have been absorbed with minimal disruption.

Match facts

Fulham 4-4-1-1: Schwarzer; Kelly (Baird, 27), Hughes, Hangeland, Salcido; Duff, Etuhu, Murphy, Davies (Kamara, 70); Gera (E Johnson, 54); Dempsey.

Substitutes not used: Etheridge (gk), Riise, Greening, Halliche.

Booked Duff, Salcido.

Everton 4-4-1-1: Howard; Neville, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Coleman (Bilyaletdinov, 87), Fellaini, Arteta, Pienaar; Cahill (Osman, 61); Yakubu. Substitutes not used: Mucha (gk), Gueye, Beckford, Heitinga, Barkley.

Booked Pienaar.

Man of the match Jagielka.

Possession Fulham 46% Everton 54%

Shots on target Fulham 3 Everton 7

Referee H Webb (Rotherham) Attendance 25,598. Match rating 5/10.

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