Osman eyeing top-four spot
Published 26/03/2014 | 13:17
Midfielder Leon Osman is refusing to rule out Everton's chances of Champions League qualification after an impressive victory at Newcastle.
The Toffees climbed to within six points of fourth-placed Arsenal after winning 3-0 at St James' Park on Tuesday evening to leave Arsene Wenger's men looking anxiously over their shoulders.
The Gunners, who have played a game more than Everton, head for Goodison Park on April 6, and with Manchester pair United and City also due on the blue half of Merseyside before the campaign draws to a conclusion, their hosts could yet have a major say in who occupies the top four positions in May.
Osman told Everton Player: "We have got to play some of the big teams yet and we are certainly vying for it ourselves.
"We are the outsiders at the minute, but we are going to keep ticking along and see how close we can get.
"We had back-to-back wins before last night and we were desperate to make it three on the run.
"It's important that we have started to pick up points away from home to get us in the direction we are going for."
However, like manager Roberto Martinez, Osman is taking nothing for granted as he approaches a potentially thrilling eight-game run-in.
Everton travel to lowly Fulham on Sunday knowing all their good work on Tyneside will count for little if they do not repeat it at Craven Cottage.
The 32-year-old Osman said: "It is important, but it's the next game, we have got to concentrate on the next game. We did that last night and it went well, and now we will concentrate on the next game."
The Toffees will set off for London brimming with confidence after producing a fine display in the north-east to emerge with a deserved victory.
If they were due collective praise for a performance which combined defensive organisation with fluent, pacy attack, there were plaudits too for a series of individuals.
Osman himself was hugely influential, as was young Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu.
However, it was England World Cup hopeful Ross Barkley who stole the headlines with an opening goal which left even the black and white faithful marvelling at his efforts.
The score was 0-0 with 22 minutes played when the 20-year-old accepted Deulofeu's chested lay-off and set off on a run which was to take him from deep inside his own half and then across the entire Newcastle defence before he smashed an unstoppable shot past helpless keeper Tim Krul.
Had Barkley's strike proved to be the game's only goal, it would have been worthy of the points, but Romelu Lukaku's 53rd-minute strike and a third from Osman three minutes from time wrapped up a comprehensive victory.
Osman said: "We have always felt we are capable of that, we have been scoring some decent goals this season. But to get three goals like that on the night was even more pleasing.
"It was a good performance. We came out of the blocks quickly, we took control of the game, passed it around quickly and got the goals at the right times on the night.
"It was very pleasing."
It proved a sobering night for the Magpies as banned manager Alan Pardew looked on for the final time via video-link.
He will return to the stadium, if not the touchline, when his side makes the trip to Southampton on Saturday, and assistant John Carver for one will be glad to see him back.
He said: "It will be great having Alan back here because he is the manager. He knows his role, and I know my role. It will be better for him just being in and around the dressing room.
"He has different ideas at times from me and we bounce ideas off each other. I've done that with [coach] Steve Stone, but in all honesty, the manager has a lot more experience than Steve, who hasn't been coaching that long.
"It will be nice to have him back."