Ashley Williams was full of admiration for “excellent” teammate Mason Holgate after the England Under-21 international delivered an accomplished central defensive display in Everton’s victory over Bournemouth.
Holgate has primarily been utilised as a full-back since he broke into the Toffees’ first team at the outset of last season.
But injuries to both Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka paved the way for the 20-year-old to play in his favoured centre-half position against Eddie Howe’s Cherries on Saturday.
The vastly-experienced Williams, 13 years Holgate’s senior, lined up beside the Yorkshireman in the middle of Everton’s defence. And he was impressed with how his young colleague fared in opposition to formidable Bournemouth strike duo Jermain Defoe and Joshua King.
“Mason was comfortable and did very well on the ball,” Williams told evertontv. “King and Defoe are two of the most difficult strikers to mark (in the Premier League), so I thought he had a really good game.
“He is one of my best mates, so we speak all the time. But he knows the position, he is a centre-half, so he was speaking to me as well – and I thought we worked well together.
“It is not an easy position for a young player. It is unforgiving. If you make a mistake, the opposition normally score.
“King is one of the most powerful strikers in the league – and Defoe is Defoe! I thought Mason did excellently against them.”
Oumar Niasse came off the bench to score twice for Everton and turn the game on its head after King’s 49th-minute goal for Bournemouth.
And Williams’ satisfaction with his side’s triumph was heightened by the spirit they showed in the face of adversity following King’s sucker-punch strike, especially in light of the three Premier League defeats the Blues had suffered heading into Saturday’s encounter.
The Welshman was also delighted for fellow ex-Swansea teammate Gylfi Sigurdsson, after the Club-record signing tasted victory in an Everton shirt for the first time.
“I am pleased for him,” said Williams. “He has settled in well and all the lads get on with him. He feels at home here.
“I thought he worked ever so hard again. He is a very important player for us and over the course of the season he will score some important goals – as he did in the Europa League (at Hajduk Split) – and put in some really good performances.
“He put in a real shift out on the left.
“You just have to keep plugging away and I thought that is what we did. The way we came back showed what we were all about.
"It was tough out there for a bit, especially when they went one up. We had to stick together, up it a little bit, work together as a team – and I thought we did that.
“We knew we could get back into the game and once we scored the equaliser, we knew we had to keep doing the same thing to get another goal.
“And winning after coming from behind makes it feel all the sweeter.”
The victory over Bournemouth made it back-to-back Goodison Park successes for Everton after they beat Sunderland in the Carabao Cup last Wednesday.
Next on the agenda is a third successive home match – in a third different competition. Apollon Limassol visit Goodison on Thursday, when the Blues will aim to chalk up their first Europa League group-stage points following defeat by Atalanta in the opening fixture a fortnight ago.
And Williams cited twin-motivators for Everton to topple Cypriot team Apollon. The defender says it is imperative to both sustain his team’s winning run and immediately put the Blues’ European campaign back on track.
“We have to keep this going,” added Williams. “If you don’t win the next game, then it feels bad again. We have won two now, we need to keep the run going, especially at home – and we need a win in the Europa League as well.
“It does feel like we can look forward to Thursday now. We will enjoy this win because we have wanted it for a few weeks.
“Then we will get ready for the game against Limassol. After the last game (in Atalanta), which was so disappointing for all of us, for everyone concerned with Everton… it was a bad game for us and we want to go out there and put things right.”