By Rachel Steinberg, PA
Everton winger Dwight McNeil cautioned against premature celebrations despite his side taking a significant step towards Premier League safety.
McNeil’s second-half brace helped the Toffees climb out of the relegation zone with an emphatic 5-1 away win at Brighton on Monday to move them one place and two points clear of 18th-placed Leicester.
While taking all three points from Roberto De Zerbi’s side provided a considerable boost, McNeil quickly diverted his attention to Everton’s remaining fixtures.
“Winning on the road is massive for our confidence within the camp, especially going forward into our final three games,” he told the club website.
G⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️D MORNING TOFFEES! ✊ pic.twitter.com/4OYfodceJM
— Everton (@Everton) May 9, 2023
“Now we are out of the relegation zone, we have a massive game coming up Sunday, then after that, the last two games are massive as well. We have to rest up now and get ready for that big game on Sunday.
“It’s massive to be out of the relegation zone, but we know nothing is done yet. We have got to go right to the end and get more points on the board and that’s what we want to do.”
Just three points separate 16th-placed Nottingham Forest and second-from-bottom Leeds.
Everton will look to dampen another club’s ambitions when they host Premier League leaders Manchester City on Sunday before encounters with Wolves and Bournemouth to close out the campaign.
With 75% of the vote, your #BHAEVE POTM is… @dwightmcneil. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/gMPLgrBguQ
— Everton (@Everton) May 8, 2023
Boss Sean Dyche was full of praise for former Burnley man McNeil, who picked up an assist for one of Abdoulaye Doucoure’s two goals against Brighton, while it was his cross that ultimately led to Jason Steele’s own goal.
Dyche said: “I’ve said keep going, keep driving forwards, because he does it so well. He can cross the ball and as you saw he can deliver calm finishes. His two finishes were terrific.
“It’s just another sign of what he’s got. I think he’s got a lot, to be honest, but I do about a lot of these players, when they’re on the edge and they’re all playing well and they’re full of confidence, but you have to build confidence and I think he’s been building his confidence levels and his performances.”
Brighton boss De Zerbi, meanwhile, encouraged his side to quickly move on from the defeat as they continue to target a place in Europe next season.
While it looks likely that seventh will be good enough for a Europa Conference League berth – a permutation thanks in part to the all-Manchester FA Cup final – De Zerbi wants his men to aim higher and refocus their mindset.
He said: “What you did in the past is not important, it doesn’t count, and we are Brighton. We have become Brighton. We won against Liverpool, against Manchester United, against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup, against Chelsea.
“Not because there is a top coach, not because there are top players, [but] because we showed pride, we showed courage, energy, patience, and I’m sure we will show for a long time.”