Time for Everton to climb table, says Neville

Click to follow
The Independent Football

A controversial defeat by Villarreal in the qualifying round for the Champions' League generated a despondency at Everton that was reflected in four successive defeats. With that sequence brought to an end against the Romanians, though not by the scoreline that would have secured passage into the Uefa Cup group stage, David Moyes' squad travel to Manchester City tomorrow morning keen to avoid another European hangover.

Phil Neville, the Everton midfielder, says they are aware of the standards required to drag themselves off the foot of the Premiership. The former Manchester United man was made Everton captain on Thursday in the absence of the rested David Weir - "Phil has been terrific for us, a real leader" said Moyes - and believes the Bucharest performance offered hope amid the gloom.

"We set a benchmark," Neville said. "I wouldn't say we played totally at our best, but I'd say it was 60 or 70 per cent better than we have done in the last three or four games. If we fall below that now, the manager can rightly have a go at us again and so can the supporters.

"Manchester City will be a great game and a great atmosphere, and it will be similar to Arsenal for me, with me being an ex-Manchester United player. I've not got Gary to deflect it or defend me now but, to be honest, I'd rather have Duncan Ferguson defending me!"

The Everton striker was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card as the Dynamo game spiralled out of control and ended with Arteta in hospital and claims from James McFadden that he and Ferguson had been spat at by the Romania international Gabriel Tamas.

Neville added: "It didn't surprise us, playing a team from that part of the world. They fought their corner and you have to give them full credit for that. In that part of Europe they do anything - spitting, challenges like that on Mikel. You go to their grounds and they leave the grass long and keep it dry in training the night before. Then you get to the stadium for the match and it's wet through and the grass is short. That's part of their culture - win at all costs. The important thing is we won and none of our players reacted - [our players] kept their dignity, while probably they never did."

Arteta, who was given the all-clear after a precautionary scan on his neck injury, cannot be considered for the City game under the seven-day ruling for players who have lapsed out of consciousness, while Tim Cahill has been ruled out of Australia's friendly with Jamaica at Craven Cottage next week.

The Everton midfielder has not had a break from football for two years due to the Olympic Games and Confederations Cup, and Moyes said: "I'll be telling the Australian FA that I am keeping him here. It is my decision, and one that will benefit both us and Australia in the long-term."