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Feb 25, 2013

Naismith backing Jelavic to improve

Steven Naismith insists team-mate Nikica Jelavic has what it takes to end his goal drought and revive Everton's European ambitions.

• Blog: Same problems for Everton

Jelavic has failed to score in his last ten Premier League appearances, and was hauled off 11 minutes from the end of Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Norwich. The result means Everton have lost back-to-back league matches for the first time this season, severely damaging their chances of qualifying for the Champions League.

The Croatia international striker's dip in form is a puzzle given his spectacular start to life at Goodison Park following his move from Rangers last January.

He struck ten times in 16 appearances for the club during the second half of last term before starting this campaign with four goals in seven games.

However, Jelavic has scored only three times since October 6, and has not managed a league goal for two-and-a-half months. Naismith, though, is sure things will soon come good for the former Rangers man.

"There's no doubt he can handle the pressure," he told the Liverpool Daily Post. "If you look at how the games are going now, the ball just isn't breaking to him. It's not about him not trying or being lazy.

"There were a couple of times against Norwich again when the ball didn't fall to him. But the other parts of his game are working well. He put a few balls across the face of goal for other people, and he'll always give you that if not the goals he usually scores as well."

Naismith and Jelavic could not prevent Everton from slipping to defeat at Carrow Road on Saturday despite taking the lead through Leon Osman's first-half goal.

Kei Kamara and Grant Holt scored in the final six minutes to leave David Moyes' side in sixth place, six points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham, who play their game in hand at West Ham on Monday.

"We controlled it for the first hour of the game and got the goal but the big thing is we didn't get the second to kill the game off," Naismith said. "You've got to credit Norwich for the way they fought until the end. We knew it was going to be a tough place to come, but we felt like we were in control.

"I think we are disappointed we didn't deal with the balls into the box. We've been working on it in training because we've lost a few late goals that way. It's disappointing, but we need to move on.

"The manager was disappointed we didn't have many shots in the second half or take our chances. The amount of comfortable possession we had should have led to the second."

Everton will look to regain their winning form when they host League One Oldham in an FA Cup fifth-round replay on Tuesday.

"The Oldham game will be another tough game but we're at home, and with the fans behind us we'll hopefully put on a professional performance," Naismith added.

Everton, meanwhile, have announced plans to freeze season ticket prices for all junior school children aged up to 11 at £95 - or £5 a game - for next season.

Season-ticket holders aged 11 to 16 will also have their season ticket prices frozen in all areas of the ground, with the cheapest at £149.

Chief executive Robert Elstone said: "We appreciate that buying a season ticket is the single biggest commitment that a supporter can make to the club.

"Season tickets make up the biggest proportion of our matchday income, so we have to make sure the pricing is right for us and it's right for the fans too."

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