Fit-again Ben Godfrey believes an excellent performance was the fruit of his labour after four and a half months on the sidelines — and is now targeting consistency on a personal and collective level ahead of the visit of Brighton & Hove Albion.
The 24-year-old defender suffered a fractured fibula and damaged ankle ligaments less than 10 minutes into the Blues' opening-day clash with Chelsea back in August.
Godfrey made a long-awaited return to action as a late substitute against Wolves last weekend, before hitting the final landmark in his recovery by being named in the starting line-up for Everton's battling 1-1 draw at reigning champions Manchester City on New Year's Eve.
Now, he says, that display must be built upon when Brighton, who have won three of their past four away games, head to Goodison Park on Tuesday evening (7.45pm GMT).
"It felt good to be back," he told evertontv after the match. "It's always difficult when football gets taken away from you through injury - it was one of the toughest periods of my career but I'm thankful for the people around me who kept me going and all the hard work is worth it in the end to be back out there with the boys.
"[The point and performance] can be massive for us. The game the other day didn't go our way and it was heartbreaking to lose so late on. To have the character that we've shown today, to come to a tough place and leave with a point is big for us.
"They have quality players - it is what it is. As a defence we have to do everything to keep them out, regardless of who we're up against. I thought today as a team and as a defensive unit we were reasonably solid.
"Consistency is key for us now. We'll enjoy today, realise how important our character and hard work is to getting a positive result, then go and do it again.
"It's so important that we show the same fighting spirit in our next games now, starting with Brighton."
Godfrey's individual efforts at the Etihad Stadium gained deserved plaudits but he says his ability to seamlessly transition back into the breakneck speed of a Premier League contest was thanks to the intensity of his gruelling rehabilitation.
Asked if his level of performance had surprised him, he explained: "No, it's a strange one... After an injury like that people from the outside can maybe wonder how you're going to come back but people don't understand how many hours of hard work I've put in.
"As I said, the people around me as well - the physios, my family and friends... Whether that's on-pitch rehab or at home with the people around me, so much has gone into it.
"So it's difficult to say I've surprised myself because you get out what you put in, but it's very enjoyable to be back.
"Health is wealth. I'm so appreciative of being back and being able to play again."
The state of Godfrey's fitness was highlighted with a lung-busting run down the right channel in the 89th-minute against Manchester City. On that passage of play, he added: "It always opens up when you start tiring! It got a little bit scrappy and Alex was battling with a couple of their boys for the ball, then it opened up. It's not a position I've found myself in too much but if it opens up - I'm off!"
Godfrey slotted into a three-man central defence with summer signings Conor Coady and James Tarkowski, who began to forge an impressive partnership ahead of the World Cup break.
And he believes the squad's depth and flexibility, combined with an unshakeable togetherness, stands the Toffees in good stead heading into the second half of the campaign.
"We always knew from pre-season - and we did it last season as well - that we can switch from a back four to a back three," said Godfrey. "We've got the players to do it. It comes down to whatever the manager thinks is more suitable for us in-game and we can execute it.
"There is healthy competition throughout the squad and that's important to keep standards high in training and in games.
"If you're not performing then there's always someone who can come in and take your place.
"What I would also say is with that competition, we've got a good spirit. It's never bitter. Whoever starts, whoever is on the bench, we keep each other going and that's going to be massive for us."
Godfrey also reserved praise for goalscorer Demarai Gray, who earned Everton a share of the spoils against Pep Guardiola's side with a stunning strike just after the hour mark.
Ahead of the trip to Manchester, manager Frank Lampard called on his side to show a more clinical edge in front of goal and Godfrey reveals the squad's attack — boosted by the return of Dominic Calvert-Lewin — regularly show their quality on the training pitch.
"There's always areas of your game that you can improve, whether that's in defence or attack," added Godfrey. "I think Dimi showed today the ability that he's got. We see it week-in, week-out, every day in training - so it's great to see it come off in game. He deserves it, he practises that.
"That's the sort of magic that we've got - we've got players that are capable of producing moments like that."
An exclusive interview with manager Ben Godfrey headlines a bumper matchday programme for Everton’s first Premier League home game of 2023, against Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday.
The defender recalls the immediate aftermath of the serious injury he sustained against Chelsea back in August, as well as revealing the physical and mental hurdles that followed. He also explains how the anticipation of becoming a parent for the first time proved a welcome distraction - and why the arrival of his son last month has left him hungrier than ever to be consistently at his best.
For all this and much, much more, pick up a copy of the programme, priced £4, around the ground or, alternatively, click here to order a copy online.