In Focus: Everton switching on at just the right time for Lamps

Cian Cheesbrough
Frank Lampard's Everton secured a much-needed victory over Manchester United at the weekend
Frank Lampard's Everton secured a much-needed victory over Manchester United at the weekend

Four days is a long time in football — just ask Frank Lampard.

Last Wednesday, the Everton manager’s job looked to be in danger after a dismal 3-2 defeat to relegation rivals Burnley plunged the Toffees closer towards the drop zone. 

After seven defeats in his first nine Premier League games in charge, 43-year-old Lampard was already facing questions about his position.

But his team responded in emphatic style on Saturday with a spirited 1-0 victory over Manchester United to breath new life into their bid to beat the drop. 

As a difficult fixture list continues against Leicester next Wednesday, has the ex-Chelsea boss  stumbled upon the formula for survival at just the right time?

Sticky situation

Prior to Saturday’s change in mood, the Toffees looked to be in free fall and their status as Premier League ever-presents was facing one of its biggest tests yet.

Lampard had struggled to improve things following Rafa Benitez’s ill-fated spell in charge at Goodison Park. 

And having picked up just two league victories since his appointment in January, the clash with the Clarets appeared to be a must-win.

But Maxwel Cornet’s late strike consigned the Toffees to another defeat at Turf Moor in a performance riddled with the same defensive errors and frailty that has proven their downfall in recent months.

Even the most optimistic of fansmay have feared for their side at that point, while Sean Dyche stuck the boot in by suggesting the Merseysiders had forgotten how to win.

He said: "I've been down there. I know what it's like and every season there have been tough patches for us. 

"It's hard to explain, but sometimes you sense that a team might have lost how to win a game. I said to them at half-time, 'I'm not sure these know how to win a game, away from home particularly'."

Up for the fight

A gritty performance allowed Everton to beat Manchester United 1-0 last Saturday
A gritty performance allowed Everton to beat Manchester United 1-0 last Saturday

But less than 72 hours after what appeared to be the final nail in the coffin for Lampard, Dyche’s claims were blown apart. 

Anthony Gordon’s deflected first-half strike against United secured a 1-0 win that had all the grit, hard work and spirit that many critics have bemoaned Everton’s lack of this term. 

The expansive and attacking way in which Lampard has been known to set up at Goodison and at previous clubs had been deemed unsuited for a relegation battle.

But against United, that gave way to a functional and more pragmatic approach that stifled the visitors, largely helped by the return of experienced heads Fabian Delph and Allan to the midfield engine room.

And Lampard admitted that while he has grand ambitions for the club, he is looking for his players to show they are up for a fight.

He said: "Beautiful football can come later, I’ve got ambitions to move this club up and change some things.

"But in the position we’re in, fighting comes first and foremost."

Good times at Goodison

The Goodison faithful have seen their fair share of poor performances this season but the supporters have clearly played their part in what is a strong home record for Everton under Lampard.

He has lost just two of his seven games in all competitions on Merseyside — winning the other five — with those two defeats decided by one-goal margins against Manchester City and Wolves.

Conceding just three goals during that period, the players are clearly responding to the lift they receive on their home patch. 

That is certainly the opinion of former Everton defender Joleon Lescott, who said: "You can just hear what it means to them as a club and as a player. 

"This is what you play for, these kind of occasions, these kind of results and performances. That will send fear to the players and teams that have to come to Goodison now. 

"They know they can create this atmosphere for the opposing team, it's going to be a very difficult place to come between now and the end of the season."

Everton have been impressive at home under Frank Lampard
Everton have been impressive at home under Frank Lampard

Time to follow it up

Saturday’s result will mean nothing if Everton are unable to follow it up.

They are without back-to-back victories since last September and will know defeat against the Foxes could plunge them right back into danger as they sit just four points above the relegation zone.

But the fact it is another home game, of which they won their last two, will certainly help the cause.

And match-winner Gordon is well aware of how important it is to build on the crucial win they picked up against United.

The youngster said: "We have done this plenty of times — where we have had big results at Goodison and then not followed it up. That is just one win. 

"We need to keep going and become a winning machine."

After Leicester, a difficult run continues with a Merseyside derby against title-chasing Liverpool, with games against Chelsea and Arsenal to come before the season ends. 

Lampard is not short of challenges but his Everton side are slowly showing they might just be up for the battle. 


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