STEVE Clarke has praised his troops for matching Everton stride for stride this term – and hopes they can keep the Toffees in their sights as the two teams prepare to go head to head at Goodison Park tonight (ko 7.45pm).
David Moyes’ fifth-placed men have earned rave reviews for their season to date.
Clarke believes his men should be proud to only recently have slipped four points adrift of the Merseysiders and has challenged them to close the gap to just one with what would be their fourth away victory of the campaign.
“Everton have had a good season,” said the Albion boss.
“They have a good squad and they’ve had a good season.
“But we’ve been up and around Everton for most of the season.
“It’s just unfortunate in the last few weeks we’ve slipped four points behind them.
“But we go there in a better shape squad-wise, with a lot of confidence and we’ll look to put on a good performance and hopefully close the gap.”
A draw tonight would see the Baggies move onto 35 points and back above Swansea, who have played a game more, into eighth spot.
And, with seventh-placed Liverpool (34) taking on sixth-placed Arsenal (37) a first win in five top-flight games for Albion could put them back within touching distance of the top five after 24 games.
“I just judge us on our points total now,” Clarke added.
“We’re on 34 – the same as Liverpool and just behind Arsenal and Everton.
“We’ve always been in touch with the teams above us and we want to try and make sure that gap doesn’t get any bigger and, if possible, tonight we want to make that gap smaller.
“As I’ve said to the players on a number of occasions this year, they have nothing to fear.
“If you’re up near the top of the Premier League for as long as we’ve been then you’re up there for a reason.”