Sam Allardyce says “determination and drive” were the key ingredients to Everton’s battling 1-0 win at Newcastle United.
The Blues stretched their unbeaten run to five games in all competitions with victory at St James’, while also recording their fourth clean sheet in that period.
And new boss Allardyce says taking into account his side’s exertions in the 229th Merseyside derby at Anfield three days’ previously, the result was made all the more impressive.
“What matters to me is Everton Football Club and a performance on the field after a very difficult game on Sunday,” said Allardyce. “Their determination and drive has given us the opportunity to win a game 1-0 and that came from a defence which has been performing outstandingly well since I’ve been here.
“I’m a little baffled by the fact Everton conceded so many goals before I got here when defenders can defend like they are at the moment, conceding only one goal in the four league games that I’ve had.
“Now we’re up to 22 points from 17 matches so we’re pushing into the top half and it all comes from a sound, solid defensive base.
“[Against Newcastle] we passed the ball better, got in the opposition’s box. Look at the goal – a terrific move down the right-hand side, lovely cross, header, Wayne Rooney follows up. That goal instinct has not left him. The keeper fumbled it a little bit and Wayne’s the only one on the move who gets the ball in the back of the net.
“They hit the post a couple of times but we had really good chances and we’ve ended up winning a game a tough, tough game 1-0. Tough that it’s always tough at St James’ and tough that we played on Sunday in the biggest game of the season for us against Liverpool. We put in a huge amount of effort in that one and came here and got three points.
“Moving forward, it’s about building the confidence. I’d say we’re not playing at our best by any stretch of the imagination when we’re in possession but confidence is growing and when that happens, the football should and hopefully will become more fluent. The balance of defending and attacking will move forward in that we become a more attacking and more adventurous side as the confidence grows.”
Allardyce maintained his impressive start to life as Everton boss despite a long list of casualties, including Yannick Bolasie, Ramiro Funes Mori [both knee], Ross Barkley, James McCarthy [both hamstring], Seamus Coleman [broken leg], Leighton Baines [calf], Maarten Stekelenburg [groin].
But the 63-year-old hopes to be able to call on some of those absentees again before long with a hectic festive period on the horizon.
“I want them all knocking on my door asking to play,” added Allardyce. “The sooner the better because those players have great qualities and Premier League experience and the lads who are doing the job now will have more help because there’s a terrific amount of games coming up over Christmas and New Year.
“We’ve got to get as many players in the squad available as possible. That’s what we need if we are going to continue that run.”
Speaking after the win in the north east, Allardyce also discussed the positive impact new assistant manager Sammy Lee has had on the squad.
“He’s totally committed with me personally, he’s been with me at two different clubs [Bolton Wanderers and Crystal Palace] and England beforehand,” he added.
“I couldn’t be without his enthusiasm. He’s bubbly, he keeps everyone on their toes and he’s never miserable… I don’t know how he does it! That makes me feel better and hopefully it has the same effect on the players!”