Dominic Calvert-Lewin could be back for Everton as early as next weekend, although Sean Dyche remains wary of overextending the England striker.
Calvert-Lewin’s season has been interrupted by injuries and he has been sidelined since Everton’s win over Arsenal in early February – the first game of Dyche’s reign – with a hamstring problem.
Being unable to have Calvert-Lewin firing on all cylinders has contributed to Everton’s struggles this season as, with 24 goals in 31 matches, they are the joint-lowest scorers in the Premier League.
While optimistic of Calvert-Lewin returning to the matchday squad when Everton visit Crystal Palace next Saturday, Dyche was issuing no guarantees after Saturday’s deflating 3-1 loss against Fulham.
“Dom’s going well which is a positive,” Dyche said. “He’ll be back hopefully in the thinking this week as long as the week goes well.
“He’s had a very good week this week and we want him to have another very good week next week and then we’ll see how he’s feeling.”
Dwight McNeil cancelled out Harrison Reed’s opener at Goodison Park on Saturday afternoon as Everton ended the first half on top, but several chances went begging and Fulham capitalised after half-time.
Goals from Harry Wilson and Dan James knocked the wind out of Everton’s sails and they were booed off at the full-time whistle, with eight matches remaining in the season to secure their top-flight status.
“When you’re playing Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham, the fans go with you a little bit easier because they’re tough (matches),” Dyche added.
“But there was an expectation here and we’ve got to deal with that expectation because there will be more expectation coming. You’ve got to find the consistency and too many went under too quick here.
“The next one’s a big one, but they’re all big ones. When I got here I said every game is a big game and we all know that.”
Fulham boss Marco Silva claimed his first win against Everton, who sacked the Portuguese in December 2019, as the Cottagers snapped a sequence of five successive losses and passed the 40-point barrier.
They showed they can be a threat without suspended top-scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic and Wilson admitted it was a relief to get back to winning ways after a forgettable past few weeks.
“It was a massive game for us,” Wilson said. “We knew coming here it was a must-win game for them, but for us as well because we wanted to get back to the levels that we’ve been at for most of the season.
“Once you lose a few games that confidence does dip and I think you can see in our performances of late. Hopefully this gives us the confidence to keep going for the rest of the season.
“For us now, it’s about finishing in that top half and as high up the table as we can.”