EVERTON boss Roberto Martinez is ready to put his faith in Joel Robles as his number one goalkeeper.
The Spaniard has had to play second fiddle to Tim Howard since leaving Wigan to reunite with Martinez at Goodison Park two-and-a-half years ago.
But Robles’ performances in the cups this season coupled with some shaky displays by Howard have seen a groundswell of support for the 25-year-old to play in the Premier League as well.
He got his chance against Newcastle earlier this month when Howard was sidelined by a knee injury and took it, keeping a clean sheet in that game and the following one against Stoke.
Robles then kept his place last weekend for the 1-0 defeat by West Brom, albeit blotting his copybook with an error for Salomon Rondon’s goal, despite Howard returning to the squad.
He was always going to play in Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Bournemouth but it seems Everton veteran Howard is now in the position of having to win his place back.
Martinez has been a staunch defender of the American all season, trumpeting his experience and value to the side, but, asked if Robles was now in possession of the shirt, the Toffees manager said: “He is.
“It’s been a really good, consistent period for him and the back four. I think defensively, you look at the performance against West Brom and it’s exactly what we expected. We only conceded one corner, one shot on target, and unfortunately that went in.
“To have three clean sheets before that is something we can build on and carry on on those lines.
“That’s when you are in a strong position, when you’ve got football making the decisions. It’s important that you give continuity and at the moment, Joel is doing really well.
“But Tim Howard has been injured and he hasn’t been able to fight for his place back. We’ll benefit from the competition for places and that’s the way I want to see it.”
Martinez refused to comment on speculation linking Everton with a summer move for Chelsea keeper Asmir Begovic, and also again stayed silent on reports Howard will leave the club in the summer.
“All I’m focusing on is making sure that Tim gets back to his best level and being able to finish the season strong,” he said. “Whatever happens in the future, I don’t think it’s the right moment to speak about it now.”
Defender John Stones could return to the side after recovering from a hamstring injury but new signing Oumar Niasse is likely to have to wait a bit longer for his debut.
The big-money signing from Lokomotiv Moscow is struggling with pain in his hand following wrist surgery.
Martinez said: “His hand is giving him a little bit of trouble. Physically, he’s getting stronger with every session that goes by. We’ll see in the next 48 hours if the hand is stopping him being involved at the weekend.”
The Everton boss, meanwhile, insisted there are no ghosts to exorcise from the Toffees’ eventful last trip to Bournemouth in November.
They seemed on course for an easy win at 2-0 up with 10 minutes to go only for the Cherries to pull level. Everton then scored a third five minutes into injury time but it was still not enough as Junior Stanislas made it 3-3.
Martinez said: “I think we set the record straight when straight after Bournemouth we went to Middlesbrough in the quarter-final of the League Cup and we showed that we knew how to protect a two-goal lead.
“We are in the fifth round and we’re going to give everything we’ve got to try to be in the draw for the sixth round. It gets you very close to getting to Wembley and we know how important that is.”