Roberto Martinez is hopeful of launching a late-season salvage job as Everton seek to end an underwhelming campaign on a high.
Inconsistent form in the Premier League, which has yielded a return of just nine wins from 32 games, has left Martinez’s side in the bottom half ahead of Saturday’s visit of Southampton.
A run to the FA Cup semi-final has offered some respite to Martinez, who has otherwise come under increasing pressure, with Wednesday’s goalless draw at Crystal Palace, in which James McCarthy was sent off, doing little to placate the fans.
But the Spaniard believes the remaining games could yet provide a happy ending.
“Every season boils down to these final games and we can have a really strong ending,” he said. “We are right in the middle of the most testing period.
“Five games in two weeks has always been an interesting period. We need to make sure we can display again the good attributes we had against Crystal Palace.
“With one man down it became more than a footballing exercise. It was about the togetherness, the resilience and all the aspects that help you as a team.
“It doesn’t matter what level, everything is about working with a group and winning the next game. It could be promotion, like my time at Swansea, or relegation, like at Wigan.
“It’s the pressure that you put yourself under. It’s always the target to finish higher than last year.”
Everton won the reverse fixture at St Mary’s Stadium 3-0 in August, when two of their star players did the damage, as Romelu Lukaku scored twice and Ross Barkley netted late on.