Everton 4 Fulham 1
For all the minor changes that have been implemented, the biggest difference at Everton since Roberto Martinez took charge is that where they once went with hope they now go with expectation.
Before the trip to Manchester United, Martinez boldly claimed 71 points would guarantee a Champions League spot and Everton would need to be in position to average 1.94 points from their last 11 games.
After the famous win at Old Trafford, the impressive draw at Arsenal and this gritty victory over Fulham they are already well on course to make that mark.
With almost half of the season gone, the argument is becoming a compelling one and the win at the weekend was without the suspended James McCarthy and with Belgium winger Kevin Mirallas starting from the bench.
The win over Fulham lacked the quality of their trips to United and Arsenal but they dug in and secured the three points, with some suggesting it was the kind of tie, following a high, they would have drawn under David Moyes.
Following the highs of recent weeks comes the reward and Martinez’s side face Swansea, Sunderland, Southampton, Stoke, Norwich and West Brom before the Merseyside derby on January 28.
They broke into the top four in 2005 under Moyes and threatened to on several other occasions.
One of Martinez’s key phrases is “football arrogance” and that appears to have even seeped into the subconscious of the likes of Leon Osman, who has made Everton’s ambitions clear.
“We have given ourselves a good base and if we let things slip from here as regards the top four then we would be very disappointed with ourselves,” Osman, 32, said.
“However, it is a long season and we have to take each game as it comes as the cliche goes.
“If we do get ahead of ourselves that is when things will become complicated and things can start to fall down around you.
“We have had a bit of publicity for how well we have been doing and how well we have been playing but it is difficult to keep those levels up for the entire season.
“The fact we dropped at times against Fulham but still managed to come away with a 4-1 victory shows where we are at, at the minute.”
Osman opened the scoring when he curled in from Steven Pienaar’s pass but the second goal did not come despite continued heavy pressure.
Fulham pulled level midway through the second half when Dimitar Berbatov rolled in from the penalty spot after Alex Kacaniklic was clipped in the area by Gareth Barry.
But Seamus Coleman rounded off yet another impressive performance when he tapped in from another Pienaar cross before Barry headed in from close range and Mirallas drove in from 25 yards.
Even in defeat, defender Philippe Senderos believes Fulham showed they have enough about them to get out of trouble under new manager Rene Meulensteen.
“We know what’s ahead and the games come thick and fast so we have to be ready for the next fight. We have enough quality to dominate games and we showed it again against Everton,” Senderos said.
“It was in patches because the last 20 minutes we didn’t do it that well but we have enough quality and we just have to be consistent and continue and not let our heads drop.
“The manager has made a difference. We showed on the pitch that we have a plan and we’re going forward.”
EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Howard 7; Coleman 8, Jagielka 6, Distin 7, Oviedo 7; Barkley 7, Barry 7; Deulofeu 7 (Mirallas 63, 7), Osman 7, Pienaar 9 (Stones 88, 6); Lukaku 7.
FULHAM (4-5-1): Stekelenburg 7; Riether 5, Senderos 6, Hughes 6, Riise 5; Dejagah 6 (Duff 83, 6), Parker 6, Sidwell 7, Karagounis 5 (Bent 79, 6), Kacaniklic 7 (Kasami 69); Berbatov.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved