LEIGHTON BAINES rued Everton’s lack of a clinical edge in front of goal as they missed a string of chances to put Fulham to the sword – and paid with a heart-breaking late equaliser at Craven Cottage.
The Blues dominated Martin Jol’s men in a one-sided second-half when Marouane Fellaini scored a brace, but ultimately had to be content with a draw which felt like a defeat, according to the England defender.
Everton moved back into fourth place in the Premier League on goal difference after Tottenham lost, but Baines said the Blues must improve if they are to realise their potential and cement themselves in the European places for the long run.
He said: “We were gutted. We probably started slowly but really grew into it and then totally dominated the second-half. We should have scored more goals and it shouldn’t have been an option for them to get a late equaliser. We didn’t take our chances and got punished for it. When we’re at our best we mix it up; we go long and we play football as well and that’s when teams don’t know what to do with us.
“They’re not sure whether to come in and get tight or stand off. We’re not over-reliant on creative players or passing that can sometimes be a bit one-dimensional; we’ve got a bit of everything. We can beat teams up and play around them.
“There were so many chances. Even if we’d taken one at 3-1 it would have been game over, but we just weren’t clinical enough. So we’re really disappointed because to come away with a draw felt like a loss.”
Baines said the disappointment among Everton’s players proves how much they believe in their ability, but insisted they must quickly go up another gear.
“It’s maybe an indication of how well we played that we’re gutted, but overall an indication of how far we’ve come would’ve been that we won the game,” he said. “So if we want to get to the level we want to be at we need to win games against Wigan and Fulham when we create chances. If we want to get where we want to be, that’s what we must do. We feel we’re on the cusp of it because of the good stuff we’re playing but we need to be less naive defensively at times and use our wits to see games out, and be more clinical.”
Fellaini was the game’s outstanding player, and gave the Cottagers a torrid time, but Baines believes the Belgian is one of several game-changers the Blues have in their ranks.
He said: “We’ve got good attacking players like Steven Pienaar, Kevin Mirallas and we’ve got Seamus Coleman bombing down. Then we’ve got the option to play it up to Felli. We want to win every game and there hasn’t been one when we haven’t set out to win it, or looked like we could win it.
“Felli was awesome. When he plays like that, and he’s been like that a few times this season, you just can’t defend him. He’s such a handful and hopefully we can get him playing like that every week.
“You’ve got to take the positive that we’re back in fourth but we’ll dust ourselves down and after a couple of days see it in the positive light we should.”