Sam Allardyce says Oumar Niasse's exceptional form is forcing his fellow forwards to bide their time as competition for an Everton striking berth heats up.
Niasse headed home his seventh Premier League goal of the season in the 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Saturday, and has started the Toffees’ past three matches.
He is averaging a goal every 120 minutes in the Premier League this season and his valuable contribution has been an important factor in Everton climbing the table.
The Blues now sit just two points off seventh place having been two points above the relegation zone when Allardyce watched November’s 4-0 win over West Ham United prior to his appointment as boss.
Niasse forced his way back into the starting XI after making a telling impact from the bench in the match with West Bromwich Albion three weeks ago. The 27-year-old had been on the pitch for 60 seconds when he strode onto a knockdown from Theo Walcott and lashed a lethal finish high into the net.
He has not been shifted from the team since, putting in a gargantuan 88-minute shift in the win over Leicester City, when all that was missing from his high-octane performance was the goal his efforts merited, and then playing the majority of last week's defeat at Arsenal, where he was the width of a goalframe from finding the net.
With January signing Cenk Tosun and 20-year-old Dominic Calvert-Lewin – who has made 37 appearances and scored eight goals in all competitions this term –waiting in the wings, Niasse will have to keep performing to retain his spot in Allardyce's team. But the former Lokomotiv Moscow player's poacher's effort against Palace served to further strengthen the claim of a player his manager insists has deserved his recent run of games.
“The one thing he did, that he should have done against Leicester, was score,” said Allardyce. “It was a very good header at an important time.
“His hold-up play and his work-rate were good. He has got competition – obviously Cenk’s very disappointed that he is not playing – but when somebody up front is doing the job as well as he can and making an impression on the team, then Dominic and Cenk have to be a little bit more patient.
"Oumar's goals-per-game ratio is good and he appears, at the moment, to be the best player to score goals for us.
"His contribution on Saturday helped us and, as a team, we now have to keep up that home form. The one thing we need to get better is the away results."
While Niasse’s clinical finish from Cuco Martina’s cross was the highlight of his display against Palace, the Senegal international also set up Gylfi Sigurdsson’s opener – the first time Niasse had scored and assisted in a Premier League game.
Sigurdsson replicated his teammate's feat when he laid on Everton's third goal for Tom Davies, as Everton made it 17 points won from the 24 on offer on home soil since that floodlit success over West Ham at the back end of last year.
"We have got a home record that stands us in really, really good stead," continued Allardyce. "After the top five or six, we probably have one of the best home records this year. What we have to do is improve the away performances.
"We might even have scored more goals against Leicester and more against Palace.
"Our home performances have been consistent. They are why we are in the top half of the table and we must continue in the same way."