Naismith completes memorable week for Scotland and Everton

Steven Naismith is looking to kick-start his Everton career after 12 months of frustration.

Steven Naismith celebrates his goal against Chelsea with former Ibrox team-mate Nikica Jelavic. Picture: PA
Steven Naismith celebrates his goal against Chelsea with former Ibrox team-mate Nikica Jelavic. Picture: PA

The Scotland international rounded off an impressive few days on Saturday night when he scored the match-winning goal to beat Chelsea 1-0. The victory, which got the Roberto Martinez era properly under way after three successive draws, followed Naismith’s fine performance for Scotland in the win over Macedonia last Tuesday.

Despite making 35 appearances for Everton, scoring four goals, in his maiden campaign last season following a move from Rangers, Naismith did not really find his form. However, the arrival of Martinez has given the whole squad a boost and Naismith is keen to make his mark.

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Injury to Steven Pienaar allowed the Scot to make his first league start since scoring in the 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge on the final day of last season, and he knows he has to work hard to keep his place.

“Last season was my first season back from a knee injury, which takes time, plus it was my first season back at a new club which takes time,” he explained. “At previous clubs I’ve taken time to 
settle so hopefully this can be the start.

“It was unfortunate for Steven 
Pienaar to be injured but it opened up the door for me to get my chance and, hopefully, I can carry that on and get 
selected again.

“You have to earn your place. When you come to a club like Everton and you are competing for European football, you expect the quality to be high and for there to be competition for places.

“I am up for the fight and I wouldn’t have come here if I wasn’t. I’m glad to be part of this squad and I hope to be able to contribute more.”

The victory over Chelsea possibly owed more to the resilient style of Moyes than it did to the possession play of Martinez. Jose Mourinho’s side created the majority of the chances but crucially for Everton they took theirs.

Leon Osman’s cross to the far post was nodded back by Nikica Jelavic, another former Rangers player, and Naismith headed home from close range.The closest they came to scoring after that was Leighton Baines’ 90th-minute free kick which crashed against the angle of post and crossbar.

“We feel we can compete against any team we come up against and we have shown that in the first few games where we’ve played really well without getting the results we wanted,” added Naismith.

“It has been a big change from the previous manager in terms of the style we are playing and that will take a bit of getting used to, but we have shown we can carry out what he wants and cause trouble to the best of them.

“It gives you a bit more freedom because the manager wants you to go and express yourself going forward.”

What also helps the Everton forwards is the knowledge they have an experienced England international in Gareth Barry, who made his debut after joining on loan from Manchester City.

The 32-year-old was excellent, reading the game brilliantly and producing one perfectly-timed block to prevent Samuel Eto’o rolling the ball into an empty net after goalkeeper Tim Howard’s attempts to pass sideways out of his six-yard area only succeeded in picking out Chelsea’s Andre Schurrle.

“Barry was brilliant. He brought experience and calmness in the middle of the park, which is one of the hardest things to do,” said Naismith. “When you are under pressure he takes the pressure off. When we win possession back it is those first couple of crucial passes which he is excellent at. He’ll put someone through and we’re in behind their midfield and on their back four.

“He also gives guys like Ross Barkley the freedom to play and do what he does best in the final third.”