September 19, 2014

With a trip to the League Cup semifinals booked, Everton's focus shifts back to climbing the Premier League table, and it seems they might be able to gain plenty of ground while playing four of their next six league matches at home.

They've looked very comfortable at Goodison Park lately, and Monday's match with Crystal Palace is the next opportunity to continue that form with the chance of jumping a team they enter the weekend trailing.

Tuesday's 2-0 win at Middlesbrough has the Toffees moving to the last four of the League Cup, drawing league pace-setters Manchester City after Gerard Deulofeu and Romelu Lukaku scored eight minutes apart in the first half to do away with the Championship side. Everton are the only remaining club to not win the competition, and aside from that, manager Roberto Martinez found something he hopes to carry back into the league.

"The two goals were exceptional pieces of quality which you can never take for granted," Martinez told the club's official website. "But, after going 2-0 up, to keep the clean sheet was probably the most pleasing aspect."

Particularly so after their last league match. Passing Palace (7-1-6) wouldn't be on the to-do list if Everton (5-6-3) held a lead last weekend. The Toffees are unbeaten in their last six matches (3-3-0) across both competitions, though the latest ended in disappointing fashion with Bournemouth scoring in the eighth minute of stoppage time for a 3-3 final at the Vitality Stadium on Nov. 28. Those two extra points would have them clear of Merseyside rivals Liverpool in sixth on goal differential.

"You need to be focused," Lukaku said. "The referee didn't blow the whistle, so you need to be focused until the last second of the game. We weren't, they scored the goal and everybody is down. But like the manager said after the game, we need to learn from this. As long as the referee didn't blow the whistle, we needed to stayed focused and try to defend the result."

The equaliser came three minutes after Ross Barkley gave the Toffees what seemed to be a winner. Making it more gutting is they held a 2-0 lead into the 80th minute after first-half goals from Ramiro Funes Mori and Lukaku, whose scoring run is being overshadowed by the on-going one by Leicester City's frontman.

Lukaku has six goals on a five-match scoring streak in both competitions, and 10 of his 13 for the season have come in the league. That puts only Jamie Vardy's 14 between the Belgium international and the Golden Boot lead.

The brace on the streak came in a 4-0 home win over Aston Villa on Nov. 21 with Barkley also scoring twice, giving the club 10 goals in their last two home matches.

Palace, seventh in the table on 22 points and one clear of ninth-place Everton, left Goodison Park with a 3-2 win last season as the away club won each meeting. That too resulted in Lukaku, who scored early in both meetings, giving the Toffees a lead before the Eagles netted the next three. It was their second win in as many seasons at Everton and improved the Eagles to 4-0-2 there in the Premier League era.

They also should be riding high after a 5-1 win over Newcastle United on Nov. 28, falling behind in the 10th minute before ending the half with a two-goal lead and sending manager Alan Pardew to a win over his former club.

Yannick Bolasie and James McArthur each scored twice and Connor Wickham had three assists. Wickham said they're at their best when it starts with the wingers, Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha.

Bolasie, who scored the eventual winner in last season's trip to Everton, has three goals in his last three matches.

"It is brilliant to play with the pace we have in our side with both the wingers in particular and we need to utilise that in games to our advantage and hopefully that will give us some good results," Wickham told the club's official website.

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