TIM HOWARD is hoping Everton's growing defensive resilience will help them produce their usual end-of-season form and clinch a Champions League qualification spot.
Howard, 33, had to be at his very best to ensure the Blues held on for a point during the 0-0 draw at Southampton on Monday, as David Moyes’ side closed to within three points of the top four despite a poor first half display.
Everton are known for being slow starters in previous Barclays Premier League campaigns, with a decent run of form after the turn of the year leaving them in the hunt for European qualification.
But this season they have picked up a good haul of points and Howard wants that to continue until May, something he knows will be helped by their growing ability to keep clean sheets after their last two fixtures ended with shut-outs.
Asked how much confidence the start to the season had given the side Howard said: "A lot. Now it is going to be a matter of whether we can put two halves together.
"That is what everyone is wondering and it is our job to keep it up and keep our levels high.
"When we don’t perform well we need to get something out of it and so at the moment that is working."
Moyes said the draw at St Mary’s was a missed opportunity for his side but Howard is pleased to keep the points tally ticking over with so many big clubs targeting a top-four finish.
He said: "It is easy to say ’what if’ but I always think if we can keep picking up points here and there it is better than a loss, it just depends how you look at it.
"We are right there in the mix and it is going to go week-to-week now. "We are three points off Spurs and Liverpool are four points behind us and Arsenal are four with a game in hand so if everyone does their job it is going to be basically who wins the head-to-head battles."
I think it balances out," he added. "There were times in the first half of the season where we weren’t earning clean sheets and we got bailed out with goals and won games.
"So we all have our jobs to do, like I say, and we did it well against Southampton. It’s a second clean sheet on the bounce, so we’ll take the positives out of it. The goals will come."
EVERTON’S FA Youth Cup fourth round tie at Port Vale, was last night postponed for a second time.
The game is now scheduled to take place on Saturday at 2pm.