Sean Dyche believes Dwight McNeil had an ‘excellent’ game in Everton’s loss to Aston Villa - and feels the crowd after starting to get behind the winger.
The Toffees fell to a 2-0 defeat against Unai Emery’s side on Saturday. It was Dyche’s maiden reverse at Goodison Park since taking charge as manager following wins over Arsenal and Leeds United.
Everton created several chances that were spurned, though, and can feel unfortunate not to have picked up a point. McNeil was at the heart of plenty of the Blues’ attacking play.
The 23-year-old moved to Merseyside from Burnley for £20 million last summer but endured a difficult start to his Goodison career.
But McNeil’s been given a fillip since his former Turf Moor boss Dyche took the reins at Everton - and has now been challenged to maintain such high levels.
On McNeil’s performance against Villa, Dyche said: “I thought Dwight McNeil was excellent today. He kept working and he probably deserves something for his performance. We have to keep knocking on the door and eradicate the soft moments.
“No disrespect to Burnley, but Dwight’s come to a bigger club, it’s a different environment. He’s still relatively young and he’s played a lot of football for a young player. It’s probably been a bit of a fresh start with me coming in, and some familiarity. The crowd can see what he’s doing and they get behind him, and you can see he’s becoming the player that I always believed he was. We want him to keep up that level of performance.”
Amadou Onana had a header well saved for Everton in the first half while Neal Maupay flashed an effort beyond the post.
In the second period, Maupay saw an effort cleared off the line by Villa defender Tyrone Mings.
Everton’s lack of cutting edge was then punished when Ollie Watkins fired home a penalty after John McGinn was adjudged to have been fouled by Idrissa Gana Gueye. Then Emi Buendia wrapped up the victory of the Villans with nine minutes remaining.
Still, Dyche was encouraged by several aspects of his side’s display. He said: “The details in both boxes are forever the most important thing in football. It hasn’t been right here all season, that is quite obvious. We have corrected it somewhat but we have to keep working continuously on that.
“I have to be careful because the key moments were the difference today and I thought a lot of our performance was right. The theme this season has been finding those big moments and we didn’t find a moment in the first half, but a lot of it was good.”