Sam Allardyce says Everton’s confidence is going in the "right direction" after Theo Walcott’s thundering second-half strike defeated Newcastle United.
The victory over Rafa Benitez’s team sees the Toffees jump above Leicester City into eighth in the Premier League and means they have collected 27 points from the past 39 available at Goodison Park.
Winger Walcott came close to opening the scoring with a rising drive on the stroke of half-time, while Cenk Tosun and captain Phil Jagielka both had opportunities to strike before the break.
The former Arsenal player decided the contest when he cleverly kept alive Yannick Bolaise’s searching right-wing cross, before deftly shifting the ball to create an opening and hammering past the helpless Martin Dubravka.
There was a blow for Everton in the aftermath of the Walcott’s breakthrough effort, with exceptional midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin forced off with a dead leg following a coming together with Newcastle wideman Matt Ritchie.
Allardyce is hoping Schneiderlin will recover in time to face Huddersfield Town on Saturday – and conceded the Blues lost some of their “rhythm and fluency” when they were deprived of the France international's assured presence in the middle of the park.
“Up to 75 minutes we were excellent but then we had to do some desperate defending to secure the victory we deserved,” said Everton manager Allardyce, who saw right-back Seamus Coleman make a vital clearing header from his own six-yard box deep into stoppage time.
“We lost our rhythm a bit when Morgan Schneiderlin came off because he had a massive influence for us today. That loss caused us to lose some of our fluency and possession in midfield.
“Morgan suffered a dead leg but, hopefully, with a bit of ice and treatment he will be okay for Saturday.
“He is looking like a very important player in midfield for us. Not just his interceptions but his use of the ball is getting better and better with each game, which is very important for us.
“I think everybody is going in the right direction and getting more confidence by the fact we have won three, drawn two and lost only one over the past six games. The confidence is going the right way but there needs to be a bit more consistency.”
Schneiderlin’s authoritative display was characteristic of his team’s controlled and committed performance. The 28-year-old found the mark with 90.2 per cent of his 41 passes and completed four interceptions as he made a significant contribution to Everton stretching their unbeaten run to a third match.
For Walcott, it was a third strike for the Toffees following his January switch from Arsenal and reward for Everton’s patient probing against a resolute, disciplined Newcastle team - which came to Goodison off the back of four successive top-flight wins.
“It was very difficult to break down a very stubborn Newcastle defensive unit, with players in their own half trying to suck you in and hit you on the break, but finally we did,” added Allardyce.
“I am very pleased for Theo and for the team. The players did all the talking by winning the game and putting us up to eighth and we are aiming to finish the season strongly.”