How to celebrate an important victory without getting too carried away? It is not in the character of David Moyes to proclaim his own work, nor is it the habit of his players to trumpet theirs. Yet there is an unmistakable determination about Everton, exemplified by the refusal to surrender the points in a tight game against Spurs, that might yet send them into Champions League nirvana.
Only four points separate Everton in fourth and 11th placed West Ham. In the chasing posse are Liverpool, whose surge into the top half of the table has fired imaginations in the red half of Merseyside about claiming that sought-after Champions League spot. Everton climbed above Spurs only on goal difference after the late salvo that secured Sunday’s 2-1 win. On Saturday they travel to Stoke, an experience tailor made to bring the upwardly mobile to order.
In a season as competitive as this it is proving to be the team that prevails will be the one that deals best with close encounters of the Spurs kind. The goal that brought them level, scored on the stroke of full-time, was Everton’s 1000th in the Premier League. The scorer, Steven Pienaar, an exile returned from Tottenham, believes it bore the hallmarks of a team capable of making the leap to Europe’s high table.
“The guys want to work hard and achieve something. Maybe at the end of the season there will be a celebration. We started the season really well. We were maybe getting over confident, giving games away and too many draws. This win is important for us. We didn’t deserve to go one down. We had chances, the final pass was not that good, but we kept going.”
The equaliser from a cross by Seamus Coleman had a rarity value commensurate with a landmark finish. “I was quite pleased with it,” Pienaar said. “The last one I scored (header) was in 2001 for Ajax. The timing was perfect. It was a special goal.”
After a run of seven draws in nine games the victory, achieved via Nikica Jelavic’s instinctive prod 88 seconds after Pienaar’s bullet header against a Spurs team that started the match in fourth, affects a shift in attitude and confidence that was recognised by Phil Jagielka. “It will be nice not to be looking up 15 or 16 places to the top of the Premiership at Christmas. We have given ourselves a great platform now. We have to perform well for the rest of season. It is up to manager to keep players focused and we have to maintain our good form and stay up there.
“We have great characters we in the dressing room. The confidence throughout the squad is high. We had a good start to the season but we have drawn too many, turning winning positions into draws. It was nice to come from a losing position to gain three points this time. It jumps us up the table against a team that had been on a great run themselves.”