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Friday, March 1, 2013
Moyes: Jelavic and Mirallas key to success

Mike Whalley

David Moyes has backed Nikica Jelavic and Kevin Mirallas to fire Everton back into European contention.

• Blog: Everton need to freshen up

Croatia international Jelavic has gone nine games without a goal, and has scored just twice since mid-November. Mirallas, meanwhile, has also struggled to find the net during an injury-hit first season in England.

The Belgium forward, signed from Greek champions Olympiacos for 5.3 million last summer, hit only his fourth Everton goal in Tuesday night's 3-1 FA Cup fifth-round replay victory over Oldham.

Manager Moyes is looking for more goals from both players as he bids to lift his side from sixth place in the Premier League. As it stands, Everton would need to finish fifth or win the FA Cup to qualify for next season's Europa League.

And if they are to reach the Champions League, they will have to close a seven-point gap on Chelsea, who currently occupy the fourth and final qualification spot.

Jelavic's recent drought has come as a surprise, given his impressive start to life at Goodison Park following his move from Rangers in January last year.

The 27-year-old scored 10 times in 16 appearances for Everton during the second half of last season, before starting the new campaign with four goals in seven games.

And Moyes, whose side host Reading in the Premier League on Saturday, can see signs that the Croatian striker is getting back to form after a difficult few months.

"I think all forward go through periods like that in their career," the manager said. "All the good ones will tell you what it was like when they weren't scoring.

"There are definitely periods like that in any forward's time. Jela looks as if he's getting closer. He's missed one or two but I think he's getting closer. That gives me hope. I believe that he will score. I believe that he'll get a run of goals.

"The players are supporting him. Everybody's supporting him. We know how important he is. As I've said before, the key to our success will be if Niki can come up with the goals between now and the end of the season."

Moyes is also looking for more from Mirallas, who is starting to find his rhythm again after recovering from a hamstring injury sustained in the autumn.

The 25-year-old managed only 45 minutes of first-team football between November 10 and January 21, and the goal against Oldham was his first since returning to action.

Moyes said: "He had a good record in Greece. He was a top goalscorer over there, so we were hoping to get a good bit of that out of him.

"Unfortunately, he's missed a lot of the season through injury. I wouldn't have said when he came back that he was in the best condition. He was fit to play but looked as if he was still carrying his hamstring a little bit, that he was still labouring, or maybe a little bit frightened to extend it.

"I thought that the other night, he started to look a little bit more like himself, and that comes from games. People who have been out for three months with hamstring injuries will tell you that, I'm sure.

"It's very difficult to hit the ground running and come back right away. I'm sure those two or three games will have helped him and the goals will improve his confidence."

Saturday's game against Reading will see Moyes reunited with midfielder Hope Akpan, who joined Everton as an eight-year-old before dropping down the divisions to join Crawley in 2011.

Akpan, whose only first-team game for Everton was in a Europa League group stage dead rubber against BATE Borisov in December 2009, won a move to the Madejski Stadium in January, and is looking forward to his Goodison return.

Moyes said: "Hope was a good lad here. Like a lot of young boys, they have to go and play. Once they get their games in, their career can go one way or the other.

"But getting the games is important. Hope went to Crawley, got his games and got a move. I hope he doesn't do too well on Saturday, but I'm really pleased for the boy. He was a conscientious, hard-working lad when he was here."

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