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Everton's bid to break into the top four suffered a huge setback on Wednesday night, as the Toffees slumped to a shock home defeat to Crystal Palace. Goals from Jason Puncheon and Scott Dann gave Tony Pulis' side a shock 2-0 lead before Steven Naismith gave Everton hope of a comeback, only for Cameron Jerome to restore the Eagles' two goal lead. A late Kevin Mirallas goal did set up a tense finale, but it wasn't enough - leaving Everton one point behind Arsenal in fourth place, making their quest for Champions League football that much harder.
Manager Roberto Martinez was understandably frustrated at his side's defeat, but also advised fans to see the bigger picture of the season rather than just the game against Palace.
“If you were to look at it after the weekend, it's a disappointment. If you look at it at the start of the season, it's a magnificent position,” he said after the 3-2 loss. “Fifth and one point behind with a better goal difference is a unique challenge and a unique opportunity. We're excited from that point of view."
Goalkeeper Tim Howard echoed Martinez's sentiments, voicing his disappointment at the defeat as well as praying that Arsenal slip up from now until the end of the campaign - which would again give Everton a chance of Champions League football for next season.
“It is disappointing because we had it in our hands,” the former Manchester United stopper said. “This was always going to be a difficult game being a make-up game and we had to be up for it. We’ve just got to hope they (Arsenal) slip up," he added.
Meanwhile, manager Martinez will be looking to replace the impact of loan star Gareth Barry if he can't secure a permanent deal for the Manchester City man, and has subsequently been linked with a £2m swoop for Montpellier midfielder Benjamin Stambouli, who has been impressing in Ligue 1 this season.