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Sean Dyche is steadfast in his belief he can keep Everton up but admitted they took a backward step after crashing to a 3-1 Premier League defeat at home to Fulham.

Dwight McNeil cancelled out Harrison Reed’s opener as Everton ended the first half on top but the momentum swung back towards the Cottagers when Harry Wilson restored their lead after half-time.

Everton were opened up time and again and Dan James made sure Fulham ended a five-match losing sequence as Marco Silva claimed a first win against his former club, who remain 17th in the table.

Above the relegation zone on goal difference alone, Everton’s position is better than when Dyche took over in January, when they were 19th and two points off safety.

Results and performances have improved under Dyche but the former Burnley boss accepted they were well below-par once they fell behind for a second time before being booed off at the full-time whistle.

“There’s been good strides forward here but that’s a step backwards,” Dyche said. “The second half we actually started brightly but the goal diffused us too quickly.

“We huffed and puffed but we didn’t really have the quality moments. That’s something we’re looking to correct, the mentality of and we have somewhat but it’s a stark reminder of the truth of it.

“There’s been a shift in mentality but it reverted back to before we were here. I’ve seen the games and you looked at it when a goal went in, it was all a bit lackadaisical then and that can’t happen.”

Everton could be in the bottom three before the weekend is over if Nottingham Forest avoid defeat when they welcome Champions League-chasing Manchester United to the City Ground on Sunday afternoon.

Dyche, though, remains optimistic of maintaining Everton’s top-flight place even though two of their remaining three home matches are against high-flying Newcastle and Manchester City.

“It’s no different to the challenge when I got here – everyone told me they were gone when I got here so we’ve corrected that idea,” Dyche said. “Now it’s about taking the rest of the season on.

Everton could be in the relegation zone by Sunday evening (Ian Hodgson/PA)
Everton could be in the relegation zone by Sunday evening (Ian Hodgson/PA)

“There’s a saying I have that you’ve got to make things happen, don’t wait for them to happen. In the second half we dropped back into that waiting for something to happen.

“Generally we haven’t done that since I’ve been here. There’s been an energy and an edge to a performance to go and make it happen for ourselves.”

Fulham remain 10th but have passed the 40-point barrier after ending a dire losing run and showing they can be a threat without suspended top-scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic.

“Clearly we were the best team on the pitch and we deserved the three points with no doubts,” Silva said.

The Portuguese watched on from the directors’ box as he completed his touchline ban but he insisted he drew no extra pleasure from beating a side he managed from May 2018 to December 2019.

“I don’t need to prove anything in one football match,” he added. “I have to keep proving for myself, for my staff, for my players and for Fulham Football Club fans.

“I am really pleased with the three points, of course, it was important.

“We’ve had a bad spell so this is good. I am even more pleased for the second half, not just because we won but the way we did it, I saw improvements from last week. These are the main things.

“For me it’s not one game that will change anything in my quality in what I’m doing.”