Everton manager David Moyes hailed Ayegbeni Yakubu's return to form, after the Nigerian ended a run of nine matches without a goal to earn a 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough. Yakubu claimed his team's second-half equaliser at Goodison Park yesterday, when he deflected home Mikel Arteta's free-kick.
It was the powerful striker's first goal since September, and extended Everton's unbeaten run to five matches - much to the relief of Moyes, who expects Yakubu to go on a scoring run now. "I was pleased for Yakubu to have scored," he said.
"He had a couple of other chances beforehand so he will be pleased with his effort too. He did a lot better in this one, overall it was a better performance from him. Strikers will take any goal that comes along. It may come off his backside, or in this case his back, but they all count and they all give you confidence."
Middlesbrough had led through an early Gary O'Neil strike, and laboured for long periods before Yakubu's equaliser. Even then they could not go on to take all three points, and have won just once in eight matches at Goodison this season, Moyes still took heart from the amount of chances they created.
"We missed a lot of opportunities and have played better," he said. "When they went ahead with a goal on the counter-attack there was always the chance that they could do that again, so we needed to be careful. But give us credit, we kept going forward although we found it very difficult to score.
Away form delights Southgate
Middlesbrough have not lost since a 5-0 defeat at home to Chelsea and, like Everton, are now unbeaten in five matches. "We showed some different characteristic in this one, we had to roll our sleeves up and defend the box," 'Boro manager Gareth Southgate said.
"We defended a lot of stuff in the air and we stood up to the physical challenge because Everton are a big, strong side. We showed we are capable of digging in and getting something from the game.
"The Chelsea defeat was a great lesson for us, and we saw what the very best are capable of doing and the standards that we have to aspire to. But we have taken eight points from our last four away games and we are unbeaten in five since losing to Chelsea. That is as good a run as anyone else in the division.
"That tells you something about the league. We are showing our resilience and we are responding to every challenge that has been set. We are young and we are learning. We know that at a place like Everton you have to stand up and fight for what you get."