Everton 2-0 QPR: Comfortable Home Win Keeps Alive Chances of a Top Four Finish

Paul Mullaney@@contepomi90Contributor IIApril 13, 2013

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 13:  Darron Gibson of Everton is congratulated by his team-mate Seamus Coleman after scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Queens Park Rangers at Goodison Park on April 13, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Everton fans would have been forgiven for perhaps thinking that their team should have been at Wembley today for an FA Cup semifinal. Any such thoughts would have been quickly swept aside, though, as they watched their side comfortably deal with Queen's Park Rangers 2-0 to keep alive their hopes of a top-four finish.

Goals from Darron Gibson and Victor Anichebe were enough to give Everton the win against a lacklustre QPR side who already look resigned to the prospect of playing Championship football next season, and with an important game coming up on Tuesday against Arsenal, Everton are still in with a shout of bringing Champions League football to Goodison next season.

In fact, ever since their 3-0 drubbing at home to Wigan in the cup quarterfinal, David Moyes's side have been on excellent form.

In the four games they've played in that time, they've recorded a total of 10 points out of a possible 12, with last Gylfi Sigurdsson's goal for Spurs five minutes from time last Sunday at White Hart Lane the only thing standing in the way between Everton and a 100 percent record since their FA Cup exit.

While such a defeat was hard to stomach at the time, the players have reacted superbly, showing the sort of character and resolve which has typified the team during Moyes's time in charge. Given the benefit of hindsight, it could well be that it provided Everton with the sort of kick they needed to get their season going, after stalling somewhat around the turn of the year.

Of course, there remains an awful lot of football still to be played. Everton's run in, which will see them travel to Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and a Sunderland side fighting for survival, before the season is out, looks particularly daunting, but in many ways it could be just what they need.

The matches against Arsenal and Chelsea especially could very well prove to be six-pointers, and at this stage of the season these are the sort of games which will determine whether or not a team has what it takes to get the job done.

Importantly, the team is playing well. Darron Gibson has been a steadying influence in central midfield since coming back into the side, playing with the sort of assurance and dynamism which they had been sorely lacking, and Anichebe has proven he's more than worthy of a regular place in the first team lineup.

The powerful forward has demonstrated a versatility which must have been rather pleasing for his manager, and he's looked equally comfortable playing on the right hand side of midfield, as the lone striker or in a more withdrawn role just off the front.

Elsewhere there is a settled feel to the starting 11, and you get the feeling that if they're to remain injury free between now and the end of the season, they stand every chance of breaking into the top four, or at the very least qualifying for the Europa League.

They are still outsiders, though. Even if Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea have all been less than convincing in recent weeks, and look capable of chucking it away in the run in, it remains likely that two from those three will make up England's representatives in Europe's premier competition, alongside the two Manchester clubs.

But wins like today's very much keep Everton's hopes alive, and even if the task at hand does look difficult, with key games against some of their nearest rivals, to some extent their fate is in their own hands.

Attention now turns toward Tuesday's away trip to Arsenal, a match which Everton will realistically have to win in order to stay in contention. With the Gunners scoring a 3-1 victory at home to Norwich City on Saturday to keep the gap between the sides at four points, anything less than a victory would probably give Everton too big a mountain to climb in their remaining five matches, and so a win really does become a must.

As is the case with many sides, though, Everton's record away to Arsenal is pretty dismal. In fact, you have to go back to January 1996 for the last time the Toffees won there, long before David Moyes, and before even Arsene Wenger was in charge at Arsenal.

It's difficult to see the record changing this midweek, but in many ways such an upset would represent the task Everton find themselves faced with.

Their resources pale in comparison with those of the clubs around them in the league, and even to finish fifth place must be considered a fantastic achievement—to finish fourth would be nothing short of extraordinary.

To do so, going to places like Arsenal and getting results are the sort of exploits they'll need to pull off, but even if it does prove to be a bridge too far, getting a club like Everton into a position where they're still challenging for a top four finish at this late stage in the season is worthy of comment in itself.

Today's win was routine, but after last week's late disappointment it was essential to bounce back with three points. Although it could have been a potentially tricky fixture, in reality the result was never in doubt.

Would Toffees fans rather be at Wembley today? Almost certainly.

But if David Moyes was wanting to make up for their humiliating cup exit by getting back to winning ways in the league, 10 points from four games says they've done exactly that.