Everton manager Frank Lampard felt it was time to spell out the reality of the club’s precarious situation to his players ahead of the visit of Chelsea and he was delighted with their response.
A hugely-significant 1-0 win came courtesy of Richarlison’s fourth goal in five matches and a brilliant second-half goalkeeping performance from Jordan Pickford.
Burnley’s surprise late comeback against Watford on Saturday had left Lampard’s side five points adrift of safety heading into the game and the manager decided he needed to address it before they arrived at Goodison Park.
“I think it was an important moment to talk about the reality of the situation,” he said.
“You can keep telling the players to believe. Then there are other times when the demands are this.
“To be good lads is not enough to stay in this league. It is clear what the table looks like.
“My feeling was we needed an extra boost, an extra bit of attention, and to be fair the players delivered that.
“I mentioned it (the Burnley result) briefly to the players this morning because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a fear or a lack of hope with the points difference.”
Lampard’s side have taken 10 points from the last 12 at home and a raucous Goodison, both outside before the game and inside throughout, will play a huge part in their future with two more home matches remaining.
Burnley and Leeds, with an inferior goal difference, are only two points away and Everton have a match in hand – at home to Crystal Palace three days before the final day of the season – so their destiny remains in their hands.
“I don’t know what is in your hands around the bottom of the table,” the Everton boss added.
“If it was Liverpool and Manchester City you’d think they would win every game and then in your hands is great at that point.
“But are we expecting Burnley to win every game? At the minute maybe yeah! Are we expecting Leeds to win every game?
“It think it is hard to say what is in our hands and that’s because we can only control certain things – and that’s when we play.
“That’s the difficult thing about yesterday, we can’t control Burnley. We can’t control Leeds. We can only control ourselves.
“Of the five games we will have to control ourselves well enough to get enough points. We don’t know what that (total) is.
“My feeling is there is a long way to go.”
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel was left to bemoan another individual mistake – Cesar Azpilicueta losing possession on the edge of his own penalty area – which has left them anxiously looking over their shoulder in the race for a top-four place.
“What can I do? To give a goal away is the worst thing that can happen to you,” he said.
“It is our responsibility. It happens too often. We struggle to play without big mistakes and that is why we struggle to have results.
“In the last few matches we struggled to have a clean sheet, the last four matches we have had one clean sheet.
“Very disappointed. We knew what was coming from the opponent: the crowd and the way they would approach the match. No one was surprised.”