Everton beat Southampton 2-1 away on Saturday to make it two wins in a row, but it took a bit of work after they conceded very early in the second half with two key goals within minutes of the hosts going ahead. Conor Coady and Dwight McNeil got their first Toffees goals a couple of minutes apart to turn the tables on the Saints.
“What a feelinggg. My first Prem goal for the Toffees, absolutely buzzing.
The last few months have been hard both physically and mentally, I have pushed myself to improve and build my confidence and I hope that showed to the fans today. Back to back wins. LETS GOOO, UTFT”
The reality of his struggle has not been lost on the Evertonians who have watched his first few matches for the club. His arrival from Burnley for £20million in the summer was seen as the capture of a young, talented, hard working midfielder who had shown his quality early in his career but had struggled last year.
He has not commanded a starting position regularly and was on the pitch only because of Anthony Gordon’s illness. The first half showed how well he can help to control the middle of the park with his work next to Alex Iwobi and Amadou Onana. His work defending was on show as was his ability to see a pass.
The goal which happened only 144 seconds after Coady had tied the game was a stunning strike that left the Southampton goalkeeper shocked at the pace and accuracy of the shot. Speaking to the Everton website, McNeil said:
“I didn’t really have any doubts about taking on the shot. I knew I hadn’t scored in however many games before today - I knew the drought was getting bigger, but I knew if I kept focusing on myself and playing well then it would come.”
McNeil is also quick to put the win into perspective.
“It’s definitely important [to get momentum]. We knew the West Ham win, going into the international break, was a big one. There is a lot of healthy competition this year and I was delighted to get the start but the main thing was being part of the team and helping get the three points we needed.
It’s difficult sometimes coming back from an international break and that first game back can be a bit tricky, but I felt we did really well, especially to going 1-0 down. We responded really well and scored two quick goals. Now we’re looking forward to another big game next weekend. We’ll rest and prepare for that one.”
The confidence that a goal can bring can never be understated. We should also remember that McNeil is still only 22 years old even though he now has 142 games played in the Premier League. The challenge of being at a new team have caused him to struggle both physically and mentally. Let us hope that this is another step on the road to consistency and more success.