PHIL NEVILLE has warned his Everton FC team-mates they may have to start turning ugly to keep their hopes of Champions League qualification on track.
The Goodison outfit missed the chance to make up ground on Tottenham Hotspur when they were held to a goalless draw at home to Swansea City on Saturday.
Everton created a clutch of chances but were largely frustrated by a well-organised visiting side.
David Moyes’s side have earned plaudits this season for their enterprising and eye-catching style of play.
But club skipper Neville said: “It’s the second half of the season and there are going to be games where we’re going to have to slug it out, fight it out, not play beautiful football, not score the perfect goal, just win the games.
“We didn’t do that against Swansea and we’re frustrated. But we also know that we’ve come out of a tough Christmas period in good form, in a good position, and we shouldn’t be too disappointed.”
Everton kept only their fourth clean sheet in all competitions this season at the weekend, and their first since the 3-0 win at Swansea back in September.
And Neville added: “At the end of the day you’ve got to take the positives – it was a clean sheet and we’ve not gone down any positions in the league. We’re still in a great position and we keep going forward.
“It was always going to be one of those days. They got men behind the ball and it was obvious from the start that they were going to camp in their own box but they were going to hit us on the counter attack.”
Everton are now without a game until next Monday, when they make the long visit to Southampton for a televised clash against Nigel Adkins’ promoted side.
And Steven Pienaar believes it represents an opportunity for the Goodison outfit to recharge their batteries after a hectic festive schedule in which a lack of options has meant many players have appeared in every game.
“The break will be important,” said Pienaar. “Sometimes you need to refuel and hopefully we can do that now.
“But I hope it works in a positive way because sometimes when the game is so far away the guys can relax and forget about it and that could work against us. It’s important that doesn’t happen.”