Clean sheets can be the platform for success for Everton, says skipper Phil Jagielka.
The Blues captain was instrumental in shutting out late Newcastle United pressure on Monday night as the Toffees claimed a 1-0 win over Rafa Benitez’s men after Theo Walcott had netted early in the second half.
The victory moved the Toffees up to eighth in the Premier League and extended their commanding home form to 27 points collected from the past 39 available at Goodison Park.
Jagielka, alongside centre-back partner Michael Keane, led the way with nine clearances as he marshalled a resolute Everton defence, also winning six aerial duels – more than any other player in a royal blue shirt.
Keane – with five aerial duels and three interceptions – and Morgan Schneirderlin, who contributed two tackles and four interceptions before he was forced off after 51 minutes, also played key roles in ensuring there was no way through for the Magpies. Seamus Coleman also contributed, heading away a dangerous Kenedy cross in the final seconds while under pressure from Dwight Gayle.
Jagielka believes that defensive solidity is the benchmark for the remainder of the season.
“It is something to build off,” he said. “We have said (before games) that if we don't concede, we can create chances and give our forwards the chance to be match-winners.
“That’s the plan of attack and we did that against Newcastle all the way to the last minute. In the final seconds there was a great header from Seamus Coleman from the cross.
“I am always happy for a clean sheet. Theo popped up with a great goal early in the second half and that gave us something to hang onto and in the end, we did
Jagielka is after more of the same when the Toffees round off their season with games away at Huddersfield Town and West Ham United either side of Southampton’s trip to Goodison Park.
“I don’t think we played particularly well,” admitted the captain, who had the best chance of the first half when he volleyed over after getting on the end of a Keane header. “It was a bit edgy but it was end to end. It was nice to get the goal - a great finish from Theo - although I think we need to be more creative in the final third. But a win is a win.
“We had chances, myself included, in the first half but couldn’t hit the target and thankfully Theo was in the right place at the right time and after that the boys defended well.
“We could have had more opportunities if our final ball was better but 1-0, three points and we move on to the next game.
“If we finish the season well that will carry positivity onto next season and we will see where it takes us. I would certainly take nine points from our next three games.”