Sean Dyche says he was encouraged by his side's resilience after the Blues recovered from a slow start to pick up their third pre-season victory of the summer against Stoke City on Saturday afternoon.
In what was a tightly contested fixture, Amadou Onana popped up in the dying seconds to bundle home a James Tarkowski knockdown from a corner and seal the 1-0 win.
Speaking to evertontv after the victory, Dyche admitted he was pleased with the Toffees’ will to win and the way they battled right to the end, despite the increased fatigue following a gruelling week of three matches plus double training sessions.
“In the second half, we were much better; much sharper with the intensity of our play and our pressing,” said Dyche. “The players sometimes come into these games slightly more fatigued than they would be for a league game, for obvious reasons, because we are pushing them.
"In the second half, we stepped on and we were stronger physically and with our play as well. I was pleased with the second half, but the first half was a reminder that you have to be on it all the time.
"I was screaming at them at the end to keep pressing, keep playing, because we want that extra fitness because games are probably going to be longer this year.
“We all know that, with the board going up with more minutes on, I was pleased in a strange way to see it go up with six because that’ll become the norm. Therefore, it’s important the players stay on it and stay focused, which they did.
“We need players physically ready, but of course, it’s also about having that edge to win games and I thought they carried it all the way through and nicked a strange goal, actually, but overall, I thought we just about edged it – particularly in the second half. I was pleased with the mentality overall.”
Starting his first Everton game, Arnaut Danjuma played the first 45 minutes and showed flashes of what he can bring to the squad this season and Dyche added he is keen to build the fitness of his new signing over the coming weeks.
“He’s come in late, so he needs fitness; he needs sharpness,” admitted Dyche.
“We know that but we just wanted to get him involved today, really. Certainly, in his pre-season, it’s about getting him up to full fitness and full sharpness.”
Late returnees James Garner and Jarrad Branthwaite also featured during the match after their triumph at the Under-21s’ European Championships, and the Everton manager remarked that'll he will be looking to manage their return carefully to avoid any risk of injury.
“Jarrad had an issue in the summer – nothing too major, so they’re his first minutes,” said Dyche. “Jimmy (Garner) is just coming back in as well.
“We’re gearing those lads up, because they played in the summer, particularly Jimmy, and therefore we’re just being careful and cautious because we don’t have an abundance of bodies, and we need to make sure everyone is fit and sharp."