Dwight McNeil admits Monday’s 5-1 victory at Brighton & Hove Albion has handed Everton a huge psychological boost – but they know the job to secure Premier League survival isn’t done yet.
Abdoulaye Doucoure put Everton ahead inside the opening 34 seconds of Monday's contest on the south coast, setting the tone for a dominant first-half display that saw the Toffees run riot.
The midfielder doubled the advantage with a sweet volley before determined play from McNeil helped force an error from Brighton goalkeeper Jason Steele as the game approached the half-time break.
While the Everton winger wasn’t credited with that goal, he did manage to grab two of his own in the second half to cap off a fantastic individual performance, and a remarkable evening for the Blues.
Speaking to evertontv post-match, McNeil said on the win: “It was great to get the three points on the board, away from home, and in the manner that we did.
“I thought we were outstanding, especially in the first half, going in 3-0 up at half-time was fantastic from the lads.
“We knew in the second half they were going to have a reaction, which they did. But we stayed in it, defended well and were ruthless on the counter-attack.”
McNeil’s brace helped him climb to seven Premier League goals for the campaign so far – the highest return across the Everton squad. It is also as many goals as he has scored in each of his past four seasons combined.
Both finishes at Brighton oozed confidence. The first saw him dribble past Brighton’s Steele to slot into an empty net, while the Seagulls shot-stopper got nowhere near his second as McNeil smashed his shot into the roof of the net.
“I know last season I didn’t manage to find the net, but I knew it was just one of them seasons,” said McNeil reflecting on his double.
“In this campaign, I wanted to change that. It was good to get on the scoresheet and be more of a threat going forward, trying to help out where I can.”
The win helped Everton initially climb out of the bottom three and up to 17th place in the Premier League table.
While McNeil admits moving out of the relegation zone in such an emphatic way was a huge boost for the team’s confidence, he was quick to reiterate there’s still work to be done to seal survival.
“Winning on the road is massive for our confidence within the camp, especially going forward into our final three games,” he acknowledged.
“Now we are out of the relegation zone, we have a massive game coming up Sunday, then after that, the last two games are massive as well. We have to rest up now and get ready for that big game on Sunday."
He added: “It’s massive to be out of the relegation zone, but we know nothing is done yet. We have got to go right to the end and get more points on the board and that’s what we want to do.”