Ashley Williams says Everton’s renewed defensive resolve is “breeding confidence” in the team – and the Toffees defender believes he is approaching peak form under the guidance of new boss Sam Allardyce.
Everton have conceded only one goal in winning two and drawing one of their past three Premier League games, a run that has coincided with Williams and Mason Holgate being installed as the Blues’ centre-back pairing.
Wales international skipper Williams was a key figure in Everton’s backline last term, with the Blues recording 13 clean sheets in the 35 matches he started, on the way to finishing seventh in the top-flight.
Life proved more difficult at the outset of this campaign, however, with the Blues slipping to 16th in the table prior to their recent upturn, which has included convincing victories over West Ham United and Huddersfield Town.
A hard-earned draw at Liverpool on Sunday maintained the momentum that has steadily developed since the astute Allardyce was announced as boss last month.
And Williams is now targeting the victory at Newcastle United on Wednesday night which would potentially move Everton to within one point of eighth spot.
“I am happy [with my form],” Williams told evertontv. “I think it has been a difficult season, with the way the start went. Clean sheets breed confidence and I was so happy to get one against West Ham. And then another against Huddersfield.
“I thought we defended well at Liverpool, so I am pleased and enjoying playing with the new gaffer, and Mason next to me.
“And I feel much more confident than before, as we probably all do.
“We turned our minds straight to Newcastle after Sunday – that was the beauty of us staying in control and trying to keep the game against Liverpool as normal as possible... we treated it as [playing for] another three points. We had to do our work to prepare [for Newcastle] and now we will try to get another win up there.”
Williams was named among Everton’s substitutes for three successive matches before being recalled for the visit of West Ham, on a night when the 33-year-old headed the final goal of a resounding 4-0 triumph.
Defensive partner Holgate, meanwhile, had not seen any Premier League action since the draw at Brighton on 15 October when he was summoned for duty against the Hammers.
The 21-year-old grabbed his opportunity to play again in comprehensive style, delivering a consummate display, which he replicated in the 2-0 win over Huddersfield.
At Anfield on Sunday, the former Barnsley player was instrumental to Everton successfully implementing Allardyce’s game-plan to negate the threat posed by Liverpool’s army of fleet-footed attackers.
“It was a very good performance from Mason,” said Williams. “I am enjoying playing with him, we have a good understanding at the minute.
“The work we are doing on the training ground seems to be paying off. For him to play like he did on Sunday, with the circumstances of a derby and under so much pressure... I thought he was a credit to himself.
“I am pleased for him because he is a great lad and such a good player – and he is one of my best friends here.”