Concerns grow over James McCarthy hamstring after half-time exit
ROBERTO MARTINEZ says that James McCarthy was withdrawn at half-time in Sunday's defeat to Newcastle as a precautionary measure in light of his recent injury troubles.
Everton manager Martinez and his medical staff felt that the Ireland international was in real danger of damaging his hamstring again, a bulletin that is alarming considering his interrupted campaign to date.
McCarthy returned from a month on the sidelines in the St Stephen's Day reverse to Stoke and lasted over an hour before being replaced.
The fact that he was selected again at St James's Park 48 hours later indicated that he came through his first match unscathed.
But his early withdrawal confirms the view that McCarthy faces an anxious beginning to the new year as an issue of fatigue persists.
"It was more a precaution," said Martinez. "James came back from injury on Friday and was able to play 60 minutes.
"(On Sunday) he made it to half-time and was at a high risk of injury so he had to come off. It was feeling a little bit tight and we know the history of his previous injuries."
McCarthy's hamstring problems frustrated the Irish camp in the early stages of the Euro 2016 campaign, with Roy Keane venting at Everton for their careful protection of the key man.
However, unless a quick solution is found, it appears likely that the 24-year-old will continue to be watched on a week-to-week basis, which could give Martin O'Neill some cause for concern.
On a brighter note, O'Neill looks to have a serious midfield option emerging in the form of Bournemouth's Harry Arter.
The 25-year-old, a former Irish U-19 international who never figured at U-21 level, has scored five goals in five games to help fire the Cherries to the top of the Championship.
That's an impressive improvement, given that he had scored five in 53 league matches prior to this hot streak.
Arter, a Londoner who started off at Charlton, says that he has been encouraged to monitor the attacking movement of Frank Lampard.
"I did speak to the manager (Eddie Howe) and assistant (Jason Tindall) about scoring more goals. They gave me examples of players like Frank Lampard and the positions they take up for their goals," said Arter after registering another in a 2-0 victory at Millwall.
"The goals I'm scoring now are a little bit more in and around the box. I've been working hard and making sure I get in those sorts of positions, and it's good to see the hard work paying off.
"I knew it was something I had to try and get in my game. I don't want to jinx myself and say I've cured it and that I'm going to be on the scoresheet every week, because that will be hard."
James McClean is an established favourite of O'Neill and he was in goalscoring form on St Stephen's Day as Wigan took a badly needed three points from their trip to Leeds.
McClean, who is known as a left winger, has been used in a central striking role by his new manager Malky Mackay and is enjoying it.
"It's always nice to score of course," he said. "At the minute, the gaffer is playing me in a new role through the middle. I'm learning the position each week in training and I'm enjoying it.
"If I manage to play up front more often and chip in with a few goals then I'll be more than happy, and hopefully I can help the team out too."
Wigan are in the Championship relegation zone ahead of their encounter with Sheffield Wednesday tonight but the Derry man feels their luck might be turning.
"We've been putting the effort in all season, we can dwell on having a lot of bad luck but we've also been making a lot of individual mistakes, something which on Boxing Day we stopped doing," he continued.
"Everyone was tremendous and we managed to get three points we feel we deserved.
"Hopefully the win at Leeds can kick us on and get us onto a good run of results, something we've not been able to do so far this season."
Wednesday boss Stuart Gray has refused to deny speculation that he is keen on signing League One's top scorer Eoin Doyle from Chesterfield.
"He's scoring goals on a regular basis. Those type of players are always going to be on the radar. You are always looking at every division," said Gray when asked about the Dubliner.