Everton manager Sean Dyche admits nerves are having an inhibiting effect on his side’s hopes of escaping relegation.
The Toffees boss has spoken about correcting minor details and being encouraged by aspects of certain performances but his acceptance that the perilous situation the club are in, as they seek to safeguard their current 69-year top-flight existence, is impacting the squad does not bode well for Monday’s must-win game at fellow strugglers Leicester.
Asked why he thought results – now just one win in 10 matches – had declined, Dyche said: “Nerves, tension, focus, build-up to games.
“There have been injuries, suspensions, different players coming in and out the side, all those things go into that.
“You are looking to work through those periods when the challenges come. Like we did at Chelsea and Tottenham, we got good points.
“The two (occasions) that stick in my craw a bit are the second half against Fulham (losing 3-1 having equalised) and the second half on Thursday (when they conceded three goals in 10 minutes in the 4-1 defeat to Newcastle) without a shadow of doubt.
“It is tough when the games are quick because there is only so much you can do to prep a team, usually it is rest, recuperation, some tactical planning and some tactical work.
“This (Newcastle defeat) has to be shut down quickly because we have to be ready to go on Monday.
“I spoke to the players in the week about the ongoing mentality about performing. At this stage of the season it comes down to will, demand and mentality to take games on.”
Dyche hopes captain Seamus Coleman’s return will help bring some much-needed leadership to his relegation-threatened side.
The Republic of Ireland international has missed the last three matches with a hamstring problem and during that time the Toffees have picked up just one point, conceded seven times and even in the goalless draw at Crystal Palace looked over-exposed at right-back.
Coleman is expected to be fit to regain his place in the team and bolster a flank on which stand-ins Mason Holgate, who was sent off for two yellow cards at Selhurst Park, and Ben Godfrey look out of their depth.
The 34-year-old is also the most progressive option of the three when it comes to being confident enough to overlap in attack but it is his experience which may be most needed as they head into a must-win game against fellow strugglers Leicester.
“He’s a very important player with his history and understanding of the club,” said Dyche.
“He has been a loss for us so we do look forward to him being back. Until the second goal (in Thursday’s 4-1 home defeat by Newcastle) it was a very good performance but after the second goal that’s the big challenge for me.
“Where did the mentality go? How quickly did that change? Who re-grips it? Who in our team goes ‘right, OK, let’s re-grip what we’re doing here’ because we weren’t a million miles away? You can’t wait for it to happen.”
The Newcastle defeat was hugely damaging, not only because it left them with just two more home matches – one of which is against Manchester City – to extend their 69-year top-flight stay, but because of the effect it had on morale.
Players looked shot at the final whistle, at which time Goodison Park was half-empty as the supporters who had lined the streets to greet the team coach with their pyrotechnics and flags had headed for the exits after Newcastle’s third went in.
Asked whether he thought the team had lost the fans, Dyche added: “I don’t think so. I think they will be backing the club to the end.”