Everton manager Sean Dyche insists a behind-closed-doors defeat to non-league Chester in midweek is irrelevant in the grand scheme of their relegation battle.
The 1-0 friendly loss against the National League North side at the club’s Finch Farm training complex was arranged with the primary purpose of giving long-term injured striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin much-needed match fitness, although a number of fringe first-teamers were also given a run out.
With the England international set to be involved with the squad at Crystal Palace for the first time since early February, the game served its purpose from Dyche’s perspective.
And that is why he paid no attention to the criticism and derision which followed on social media after news of the result emerged.
“If we’d have won it 16-0 and Dom didn’t score and got injured, what would you have been talking about then? Would you have been talking about something else?” said Dyche, whose side are only outside the relegation zone on goal difference.
“If we’d have lost 3-0 and Dom got injured, what would be the thinking? Exactly. So therefore it was always about Dom.
“Three-nil would have been an eye-raising scoreline, so’s 1-0 – but it still wouldn’t have been what I’m looking for. The outcome I was looking for was: ‘Can Dom play football and run around?’ Which he can.
“You have got to stick to the outcomes, because the rest of it sometimes has to be less important than that.
“That is the absolute outcome on this occasion. On another occasion if he was fully fit and everyone else was, I’d be going ‘hang on a minute’.
“But on this occasion, I had to stay focused on the prize, and this prize was for him to stay fit.
“And that is really important because look at the noise, look at what the noise has all been about since I came to the club.
“Apart from the ownership all the noise has been about Calvert-Lewin. And we’ve been working really hard with the physios, with the medics, to make sure we give him the best possible opportunity to be as fully fit as possible.”
The return of Calvert-Lewin will provide a boost to the squad but Dyche is looking for a reaction from his players regardless after the disappointing 3-1 home defeat against Fulham.
He added: “We just lost the details. A couple of inconsistent moments, and we got punished. They’re not stupid. They know when we’ve stepped off what we were doing.
“It doesn’t change everything. There’s plenty of football to be played. It’s important to react against what happened because you can’t always control every game.
“These things go against you. It’s about how quickly you can react and get on top of the game. We’ve done that pretty well since I’ve been here, and we’ve reminded players of that fact.”
Captain Seamus Coleman misses out again with a hamstring problem but midfielder Amadou Onana will return after a groin problem.