Jan 112015

Roberto Martinez says the return to fitness of defender John Stones makes a “big difference” to Everton FC as they look to rebuild their season.

The 20-year-old England international was back in the starting line-up against Manchester City on Saturday after recent ankle problems.

Stones missed the New Year’s Day defeat at Hull City and then came on late in Tuesday night’s dramatic FA Cup tie with West Ham United but started against the champions.

The former Barnsley man was a calming influence at the heart of the Blues defence as Martinez’s side were forced to stand firm under long periods of pressure from Manchester City.

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Everton were ultimately unable to prevent an 11th straight game without a clean sheet when Fernandinho put City ahead but Steven Naismith soon equalised and ensured the Blues got a deserved point – and Stones’ classy display was not in vain.

“Every individual in the dressing room is taking the lead,”

Martinez said. “The senior players and the youngsters, like John Stones, just want to respond and do things right.

“He is such a talented footballer he makes a big difference.

“Him and Phil Jagielka and Gareth Barry give us a strong way of setting the team up but every player has an understanding of what it means to play for Everton.”

Everton v Manchester City at Goodison Park in the FA Premier League. Steven Naismith celebrates his goal in style.  

Everton stopped their Premier League rot of four consecutive defeats with the 1-1 draw with City and moved up a place in the table to 12th.

Results elsewhere, however, meant the Blues were dragged a point closer to the relegation zone but Martinez insists he is not looking at the table.

“We don’t look at the table because we have never created any momentum this season,” he said.

“The performance today was a real positive. We wanted to win the game but we showed real character, we were brave and had good concentration levels, drive and determination to score goals. Overall when you go 1-0 to Manchester City it is very tough so I’m really pleased to get a positive result.”

The Blues have produced two fightbacks in the space of a week after Romelu Lukaku’s late strike forced next week’s replay with West Ham in the Cup.

And Martinez says it was vital Everton rediscovered their resolve after some confidence-sapping results. “Remember, that is something we have taken for granted because we have always had that,” Martinez added.

Everton v Manchester City at Goodison Park in the FA Premier League. Steven Naismith celebrates his goal in style.  

“Then you concede a couple of soft goals and results get away from us, and we have wanted to do so well sometimes you forget those basics.

 “The last two performances shows you exactly what we have got in the group and that has always been our strength in any performance.

“The talent is there and the confidence will come back with one or two wins, but to come back in the manner we did today after that bad run of results against a team that is the opposite extreme is a real example of what we have in the dressing room.

“With a group like this you can really build a strong future.”

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