Frank Lampard insists his players "better be ready to fight" after Everton surrendered a half-time lead to lose 3-2 to Burnley at Turf Moor on Wednesday night.
Despite going behind to a 12th-minute opener from Nathan Collins, the Blues looked on course for only their second away league win of 2021/22 when Richarlison netted twice from the penalty spot before the break.
Lampard's side continued to threaten in the second half, particularly on the counter-attack. But their failure to add a crucial third proved costly as the hosts levelled through Jay Rodriguez before Maxwel Cornet's winner five minutes from time.
The result saw Burnley - third from bottom in the Premier League table - close the gap to just a point on 17th-placed Everton. But with both teams still having nine matches left to play this season, Lampard told his squad there is only one way for them to ensure they finish the campaign outside of the relegation zone.
"The players have to work and fight to get through it," he said. "If it’s a lack of confidence the only way through that is to keep fighting and working and that’s what the players absolutely have to do because we are in a battle. If we didn’t know that before tonight we know it now.
"We’re still above Burnley in the table so we have to keep fighting and looking forward but obviously you’re disappointed not to win from a winning position tonight.
"All the teams around us are in a similar position (struggling for consistency) and that’s why we are in the position we are in the table – because of results over a long period. It’s the same for other teams around us.
"The reality is not that you don’t often string wins together and move up the table, the Premier League doesn’t work that way. So we can’t get too caught up in the words, look to the next game, and prepare absolutely spot-on and give everything, because if we do make mistakes like we did tonight, we better be ready to fight."
Everton have a chance to respond when they host Manchester United on Saturday afternoon (12.30 BST). An 11-day gap follows before finishing the month at home to Leicester City and travelling to Anfield for the Merseyside derby.
Lampard was adamant his squad do not need to focus on the fixture list, but instead continue working on being more clinical at both ends of the pitch and showing fight that will be crucial for their run-in.
"At 2-1, we should win the game," added the Blues boss. "We should win the game by more goals, so we’re not clinical enough on the numerous chances, counter-attacks, and times we were in their half and getting in good areas, and at that point you always leave the game open – and then we make mistakes for their goals.
"The reality for us comes down to winning football matches, getting through games by no matter how and tonight we just didn’t do that from the position we were in when we should have done.
"It doesn’t matter who are next games are against. One of our best performances was against Manchester City, albeit for a decision we would have got a point in that game. I wouldn’t look at the fixture list and consider too much. It’s about us and what we do."