Everton manager Roberto Martinez was pleased to see striker Romelu Lukaku shouldering some responsibility in the 1-1 FA Cup draw at home to West Ham.
The Belgium international scored an added-time equaliser – his fourth goal in as many matches against the Hammers – to cancel out James Collins’ 56th-minute header and cap an all-round good performance.
It was Lukaku’s first start in three matches and Martinez felt he responded well to being pitched back in as Everton halted a run of four successive defeats.
“The whole week he has trained very well and his attitude was perfect,” he said.
“Rom at his best will change games. We carry a different threat.
“I was really pleased with his attitude, showing real responsibility and maturity. In a period like ours you have two options, you can shy away and hide or you can take responsibility.”
Martinez admitted without Lukaku’s goal the season could have taken a serious turn for the worse.
As it is they have won just once in 10 matches and have a defensive record in the Premier League which is second only to QPR in terms of goals conceded.
Pressure is starting to mount and an early FA Cup exit was the last thing they needed.
“It would have been very damaging but you always get an opportunity to win the next game,” added Martinez.
“It is very important we are still in the cup and now look forward to the next game in the league (at home to Manchester City) but still aware we are in a bad run.”
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce felt his side paid the price for not putting the match beyond their hosts.
“The disappointing thing was we didn’t make it two when we had the chance,” he said.
“Enner Valencia’s (header saved by Joel Robles), particularly, we should have scored. That would have made it 2-0 and it would have made it too much for Everton to come back.”
West Ham were missing injured striker Andy Carroll but Allardyce said it was not serious.
“He kicked the floor in training and bruised his foot but he will be fit and well for Saturday,” he added.
On a more positive note Alex Song, absent after being called up for the African Nations Cup by Cameroon, has announced his international retirement – which should make him available sooner rather than later.
“Since the World Cup in the summer and my subsequent exclusion from the Cameroon squad for the African Cup of Nations I have taken the decision to retire from international football,” the midfielder said in a statement.
“It is true that there were some discussions of late to include me in the squad for this tournament but I feel after a lot of careful thought and numerous discussions with my family this is the right decision.
“My love for my country will never change but I want to take time to focus purely on domestic football and start to rebuild my career at West Ham United.”