Roberto Martinez says Tim Howard remains Everton’s number one despite Joel Robles’ Capital One Cup heroics against Norwich City.
Robles has been preferred to Howard between the sticks in this competition and he had extra incentive to impress against Norwich after the American was culpable for both of Arsenal’s goals in the Toffees’ most recent loss.
The cup stopper produced a fine one-handed save from striker Lewis Grabban’s header in the last minute to deny the Canaries a 2-1 win in normal time before he saved Wes Hoolahan’s spot-kick in the shoot-out that Everton won 4-3.
However, having stated that Robles’ inclusion was not a reflection of the first-choice goalkeeper’s recent struggles before the game, Martinez confirmed Howard would return against Sunderland on Sunday.
Asked if Howard would lose his starting berth, the Spaniard replied: “No, that’s very clear.
“Joel has been playing in this competition and I trust him 100 per cent – the same way Tim Howard is a very, very influential member of our squad. Nothing changes.
“Of course we want to be better in terms of keeping clean-sheets but it’s very easy and soft to look at the last man standing in front of goal in those situations.
“Tim’s got incredible standards, he cannot be happy with the goals he conceded at the weekend. But there’s no doubt in terms of Tim Howard’s starting ability.”
His Spanish stand-in did earn praise from his manager, though, for the save he pulled off to repel Grabban after Sebastien Bassong, with his first goal since 2012, and stand-in Everton skipper Leon Osman had traded strikes.
“Joel was throughout the game himself – he was controlled,” Martinez added.
“I thought he had the moment of the game in the header of Lewis Grabban – that is a terrific save. His composure and demeanour was very, very good. His penalty save was very impressive.
“I’m very pleased for Joel because he’s working really hard behind the scenes and is starting to show how reliable he is.”
Canaries boss Alex Neil also pinpointed Grabban’s chance as a key incident in the contest and felt the visitors were unlucky not to progress.
“I felt if any team deserved to win we were the team that deserved it, whether it was 90 minutes or 120 minutes,” Neil noted.
“The save the goalkeeper pulled off from the header from Lewis Grabban was fantastic. He saved it and it went on to extra time. I thought how we played was great. We controlled large parts of the game so I’m disappointed.”
Hoolahan, who slipped before seeing Robles stop him from 12 yards, was not the only Norwich player to miss in the shoot-out, with Nathan Redmond firing over with the game on the line at 4-3.
“The only disappointing thing about going to penalties is you don’t want any of your players to miss it because you know the disappointment they’re going to feel,” Neil added.
“These things happen; how they performed over the game was the most important thing for me. They can take huge positives from that.”