Pienaar the ‘highlight’ for contented Martinez

Date published: Saturday 9th January 2016 6:25

Steven Pienaar: Impressed Martinez

Steven Pienaar: Impressed Martinez

Roberto Martinez saw plenty of positives aside from the result in Everton’s 2-0 FA Cup win over Sky Bet League Two Dagenham and Redbridge.

A first-half goal from Arouna Kone – his first since November 1 – and a late Kevin Mirallas penalty secured a place in the fourth round but it was the return from injury after two months of captain Phil Jagielka and midfielder Steven Pienaar, making his first appearance since April, which were probably more significant.

The only downside was a head injury to centre-back Ramiro Funes Mori which required 10 stitches – putting his participation in Wednesday’s Barclays Premier League match at Manchester City in doubt.

“There were many individuals that needed that game and the opportunity to show the intention of starting in the team,” said Everton manager Martinez.

“It was fantastic to see Phil Jagielka back and showing no signs of rustiness.

“Steven Pienaar to me was the highlight of the afternoon; he has worked really hard to get fit and the warmth of the fans was a good moment.

“I expected him to play for an hour and he lasted longer.

“It was really positive to see Leandro Rodriguez, our young Uruguayan (making his debut having arrived in the summer), and today he will get a real inspiration in front of Goodison Park.”

Steven Naismith’s absence was taken as a sign his departure was imminent, with Norwich leading the chase, but Martinez insisted that was not the case, although the decision not to play winger Aiden McGeady was to allow him to go out on loan.

“Stevie picked up a bit of an ankle knock. He didn’t train in the last two sessions and he needed a couple of days,” added Martinez.

“We have three teams asking about a loan opportunity (for McGeady) and it was important not to get cup-tied and pick up an injury.”

Dagenham, struggling near the foot of League Two, have more pressing issues than a cup run but manager John Still took heart from their display.

“It was important we made sure we could stay in the match against the opposition we were facing and from that point of view I was absolutely delighted,” he said.

“The two goals game from re-starts – a free-kick and a penalty – so we have done as well as we could have hoped to have done without winning the game.”

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