Curbs cheered by fighting spirit

Alan Curbishley paid tribute to his players after they fought back from going a goal behind for the fifth straight game to earn a point at high-fliers Everton.

Dean Ashton's header midway through the second half cancelled out the blow of conceding in the eighth minute to Yakubu's piledriver. That goal for the hosts came about after 18-year-old debutant James Tomkins found himself on the wrong side of the Nigeria striker but Curbishley was fulsome in praise for the way Tomkins "got better and got stronger - as did the team" in a 1-1 draw on Saturday evening.

Speaking to Setanta Sports, the manager said: "It has been well documented the dreadful run we had. Going one-nil down after eight minutes we expected the worst but we dug in and battled away. We started playing and we created the chances ... in the second half we began to pass it a lot more, we just couldn't get the winner."

A victory would have moved United to within three points of a trio of teams above and Curbishley felt it was there for the taking - especially with Freddie Sears and Ashton linking up well in the second half. "We are sitting here a bit disappointed because we think we had some decent chances. Young Freddie [Sears] came on and caused one or two problems. We will have to sit down again and see if we deserved all three points."

Assessing Tomkins' game further, Curbishley added: "[The goal] could have deflated him but he got stronger. He had an excellent game with Anton Ferdinand. They are two homegrown players which is great for us. I always wanted to get young Freddie on but I just felt coming here perhaps we needed a decent start. When he came on he was very lively and could have ended up with a couple of goals but we will take a point. I did say I will blood some of the younger players and look to the future and that is what we will do in the remaining games."