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Mar 30, 2014

Martinez hopeful over fourth place

LONDON -- Everton manager Roberto Martinez was delighted with a 3-1 win at Fulham that took the Toffees onto the shoulders of Arsenal in the race for fourth place in the Premier League.

Roberto Martinez celebrates Everton's success at Fulham.
Roberto Martinez celebrates Everton's success at Fulham.

Everton have won all of their last five matches while the Gunners falter, having taken just one point from their last two matches.

Arsenal travel to Goodison Park next Sunday with only a four-point advantage over their hosts, who have a game in hand, and Martinez believes Champions League qualification is now very much within their sights.

"Being in this position gives us an understanding of what a good season we've had," Martinez said. "With the points we have, we have a realistic chance to fight for that aim.

"I'm not saying we're going to get that because we admire Arsenal as they get in the Champions League consistently. They have developed a real understanding of what to do in these games, so that makes Sunday a phenomenal challenge."

Should Everton win all their remaining matches, they will qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2005. Martinez, though, feels they might also face pressure from the teams behind them.

He added: "It will probably go down to the last game of the season. Look at the quality and experience of Manchester United and Tottenham -- they will fight until the end. Mathematically, seven teams are fighting for four positions."

All the goals at Craven Cottage came in the second half, after Everton had disappointed in the first 45 minutes. Steven Naismith, instrumental in Fulham 'keeper David Stockdale scoring an own goal for Everton's first, scored the third after fellow substitute Kevin Mirallas had put his side back in front after a superb equaliser from Ashkan Dejagah.

"Fulham started better than us," Martinez added. "They were very energetic and stopped us doing what we wanted to on the ball. The second half was a bit different. The fresh legs of Naismith, Mirallas and [Aiden] McGeady gave us a different spark

"We were the team who finished stronger than the home side, but even then it was a really open game. We are a team that is prepared to fight and that will give everything to get a positive result."

One blot for Everton was the loss of Ross Barkley with a calf injury, even if his replacement by Naismith proved key to victory, though Martinez suggested the World Cup hopeful will be fit to face Arsenal.

Fulham, meanwhile, are mired deep in relegation trouble after failing to capitalise on a first-half performance in which they had much the better chances.

"It was a very important game and it's very disappointing that we lost," Fulham boss Felix Magath said. "But if you see how we played, it gives you another view. It was our best game. We created a lot of chances, but we didn't score enough goals.

"I'm not planning for the Championship now -- we will try again next weekend [against Aston Villa]. I know that we can still make it because Everton are one of the best teams at the moment but we didn't play like a relegated team against them."

Young striker Moussa Dembele was particularly guilty of missing a chance to give Fulham the lead when heading straight at Tim Howard, while Kieran Richardson did the same with a shot.

"He is a very talented player who is smelling the situations in the boxes," Magath said of Dembele. "He had a great chance before half-time."

Fulham are five points from safety, having won just one league match in 2014.

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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