THE Goodison pitch may not have its usual lustre – but Leighton Baines is confident Everton are in good condition as they bid to capitalise on home advantage again on Saturday.
David Moyes and his players were less than impressed with the surface at the Old Lady during their win over West Brom, but took consolation from the fact that the hosts managed to thrive regardless.
And with another Midlands outfit, Aston Villa, up next, Baines is hoping that the Toffees can achieve a rare set of back to back league victories in L4.
Everton have played at home in consecutive games eight times under David Moyes and have never won both games, something their left-back is determined to help change at the weekend.
“The pitch at Goodison has been in better condition but it’s the same for both teams,” says Baines. “We won’t complain and hopefully it won’t hinder us too much. We’re at the stage of the season where we’ll be playing a lot more games on it.
“Character is going to be very important between now and the end of the season, especially at home.
“West Brom came to hit us on the break more out of hope than anything else. We’ve seen that more and more over the last few seasons.
“In those games, we’ve probably come up short. I can remember us dropping points at home against teams we’d normally beat in the past but now we are showing we can win them. It’s an important step forward.
“We don’t want to be dropping points from winning positions. We’ve got a bit better at it.
“It’s never easy when you are a few goals ahead and the opposition gets a goal and it puts their tails up.
“You have to weather the storm and that’s something we have been learning over the last few years and we’re improving on that.”
Baines insists Everton cannot afford to underestimate second-from-bottom Aston Villa, who showed some latent fighting spirit in the second half of their defeat by Newcastle on Tuesday.
“Villa might do not be doing so well but you can’t underestimate anyone,” he says. “Particularly in this league, as it has thrown up some strange results this season.
“Villa have been struggling for a little bit now, but we know they will be fighting and we’ll have to be on our game.
“We have some big games away from home still to come, so these home games are the ones that we have got to be winning.
“We don’t want to be dropping points in home games because it will be put extra importance on the tough away games.
“The onus is on us when we play at Goodison. From the kick-off, West Brom signalled their intent by sitting back behind the ball, and we have to find ways of scoring goals and winning games.
“We all want to get into the top four. In different weeks, there will be different players who come to the fore for us. That’s how it has been for us all season.”
Baines certainly came to the fore himself on Wednesday with a brace which was just about enough to see off the Baggies, and he is targeting more goals before the end of the season.
“On Wednesday I got a couple of goals, but the important thing is that somebody does it. In the main, we have done that,” he says.
“Scoring isn’t at the top of my list of jobs to do, but at the same time it’s something I want to be a part of. I want to chip in with a few and I’m on the penalties as well, so I’d like to think over the course of the season I would get a few.”
And whether or not Everton have fresh recruits in their squad by Saturday’s game, Baines has complete faith in the personnel currently at Goodison.
“We thought we had someone in but then it wasn’t to be,” he says reflecting on the collapse of the club’s £8.6m bid for Dutch midfielder Leroy Fer.
“Sometimes things come out of the blue. Felli, one of our best players, was a last-minute arrival a couple of years ago.
“If we get some extra faces in, then great. If we don’t, then we have a good squad here that’s maybe a bit thin on the ground when we get a couple of injuries, but we have players coming back so I’m sure we will be fine either way.”