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Pickford: Main thing was keeping a clean sheet

Goalkeeper comments on the Everton win over Chelsea on Saturday

Everton v Chelsea - Premier League - Goodison Park Photo by Peter Powell/PA Images via Getty Images

Everton and England #1 Jordan Pickford last week had said that he felt he was building momentum, and was able to prove it with a strong showing on Saturday night with a clean sheet against Chelsea.

It was only the second time this season the Blues held an opponent scoreless, and the first since the opening weekend of the Premier League when they won away at Tottenham Hotspur.

What was impressive about the performance this weekend was the intensity the Toffees showed, and after the game Pickford revealed that the manager Carlo Ancelotti had asked the players to go back a whole year to summon the right attitude.

Everton had beaten Chelsea 3-1 last December with Duncan Ferguson in temporary charge of the club following the sacking of Marco Silva and before Ancelotti joined the club, with the interim boss and a packed Goodison Park roaring the players on.

“That’s the mentality and the spirit you need to win games. The gaffer talked about the last time we played Chelsea here when Duncan was in charge – he wanted to see that spirit and fight.

“Chelsea are a very good side but it was a great win. The main thing was keeping a clean sheet. That was massive for us.

“I spoke last week [after Everton’s 1-1 draw at Burnley] about having that clean sheet mentality, with 11 men working to achieve that. That showed against Chelsea, everyone was grafting hard to try to get that clean sheet.”

There were fans in attendance at Goodison for the first time since March, with 2,000 supporters allowed into the hallowed grounds and they made their presence heard quite clearly. Ancelotti and Gylfi Sigurdsson talked about it in their post-match comments and Pickford echoed their thoughts too.

“There were only 2,000 Everton fans here but you can see how much of a difference it makes.

“Ever since I was growing up as a fan, to then coming here and playing for Sunderland – you know how hard it is for away teams to come to Goodison when the fans are rocking.

“Having the supporters back here was great for us. The main thing was to put a smile on their faces with three points and we did that.”

The 26-year-old pulled off some remarkable saves, none more spectacular than his reaching dive to his right to push a shot from Reece James with his fingertips onto the post, ensuring the Blues did not concede.

“Reece has got great quality but, for me, I’ve got to be ready for those moments when I’m called upon. Making those saves always feels good.

“I train hard with the lads and with Kells [goalkeeper coach Alan Kelly] all week to be ready for the game on Saturday and be ready for those moments.”

It was not all rosy for the goalkeeper though, who made a couple of errors and was lucky to not get punished by the visitors who hit the woodwork three times during the game. Early in the second half, Pickford charged towards a high ball and punched it away, right back into danger as N’Golo Kante collected and fed Mason Mount who lobbed the ball towards the goal and watched it sail just over the crossbar.

His second error is one that has burned him a number of times this season, and he was lucky not to concede a league-high sixth goal from outside the box. On Mount’s late freekick on the Everton right, Pickford doesn’t trust his wall and at the last second takes a couple of steps to his right. As the ball comes towards him he belatedly realizes it’s going to his left and he stretches out at full length but is badly beaten. Lucky for him it comes off the base of the upright and goes wide.

Pickford has had better games where he has conceded unfortunately, and has had games like the Chelsea one where he can count on karmic balance to level things out. There’s still improvements to be made to his game.