Everton earned an important three points in an English Premier League match against Fulham thanks to an impressive performance by Steven Naismith, which helped lead to a 3-1 victory.
The 27-year-old midfielder did not get the start for the road team, and the result was a 0-0 score at halftime. However, manager Roberto Martinez made a huge move at intermission, as noted by Fox Soccer Trax:
It did not take long for Naismith to impact the match. Just five minutes into the second half, he was able to put Everton onto the scoresheet with a heads-up play after a corner kick:
Unfortunately, this will not go down as an official goal, according to the Premier League:
Still, the score was caused by a ripped shot by Naismith. Already, fans were praising the play of the midfielder, including Bleacher Report's Dan Levy:
Of course, the talented player was just getting started. He was actively moving around the pitch, making quality passes that put his side in positions to score.
As the club's official Twitter account notes, he almost earned an assist to double Everton's lead:
However, Fulham came back with an equalising goal in the 71st minute to make the score 1-1. Considering the home team entered the day in last place in the league table, Everton could not afford anything but a win.
The good news is another substitute stepped up as Kevin Mirallas put the team up 2-1 in the 79th minute. Despite a few challenges the other way, Everton were then able to double the lead to 3-1 when Naismith connected with a goal in the 87th minute:
Leighton Baines captured a loose ball in the box and centered it to Naismith, who was able to finish with a hit beyond opposing goalkeeper David Stockdale. While the first goal was removed from the books, no one will take the second one away as he continued a trend of strong performances in this rivalry:
Amazingly, Naismith almost scored another goal late but instead hit the woodwork:
Everton were able to hold onto the 3-1 victory to move one step closer to securing a spot in European competition for next year. The club sits four points behind Arsenal for fourth place, but they have played one fewer match.
Naismith explained that getting this final spot is a goal for the squad:
At the very worst, it appears as though Everton are in good position to earn a spot in next year's Europa League at four points clear of Tottenham and six ahead of Manchester United.
As for Naismith, he clearly had one of his best performances of the season in this match, possibly earning him some more playing time going forward. Luke O'Farrell of ESPN noted that the substitute made a huge impact in the game:
If he can continue to perform at a high level like this, the Toffees have what it takes to continue their winning streak and move into fourth place in the league table.
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