Dwight McNeil’s light-speed screamer seals Everton win over Brentford | Premier League
Dwight McNeil’s final season under Sean Dyche at Burnley ended in relegation after the manager had been sacked. The two are back working together with the aim of avoiding a similar fate at Everton.
The winger’s first-minute goal was enough to end Brentford’s 12-match unbeaten run and lift Everton out of the relegation zone. It was their third 1-0 home win under Dyche, with much of the second half spent holding on but once again they did just enough and the Goodison Park faithful let them know at full time what it meant.
McNeil’s impact was not immediate after his summer move from Turf Moor but he has settled under the man that gave him his professional debut five years ago as a teenager. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself but he is learning as he gets older to release that pressure,” Dyche said.
“I call it professional enjoyment, you have got to enjoy it. These times are tough at Everton but you have to find that enjoyment and he is finding that nice level. [There is] real professionalism in what he is doing and his work ethic for the team and finding key moments, which he certainly has the ability to do and today he found a very fine moment with an absolutely fine strike.”
Those enjoying a pre-match drink will not have had their usual level of enthusiasm for a Mohamed Salah missed penalty and Liverpool loss at Bournemouth, knowing the result placed more pressure on Everton. That was soon alleviated when the ball was fed into McNeil to fire his shot across David Raya and into the corner after 35 seconds. Everton’s previous two home victories under Dyche have been 1-0, giving them 90 minutes to hold out.
Dyche has made the team harder to beat since his arrival in January. Brentford looked to play direct passes to turn the home defence but they were equal to the threat of Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo. What does hold Everton back is their lack of prowess in the final third. Despite having less possession, they had great chances but Michael Keane, Amadou Onana, Demarai Gray and Alex Iwobi failed to take their opportunities to extend the lead.
Gray thought he had done so when Ethan Pinnock’s clearance hit his chest and arm before crossing the line. The forward ran away to celebrate with the euphoric fans while Brentford complained to the officials. VAR had a lengthy look at the incident, which was not as clearcut as it immediately seemed, but eventually it was decided that it was handball. “You would like them to go for you but if it went against you, you would be disappointed,” Dyche said. It would have been the first time since October Everton had scored twice in a league match at home.
Everton’s new-found resilience under Dyche was on show but they still required Jordan Pickford to keep out a Rico Henry header to keep things level. For a team who struggle to score, having a goalkeeper of Pickford’s quality could be telling in the battle to survive. Teams rarely get out of trouble at the bottom by playing great football, nor will a side managed by Dyche ever be particularly attractive to watch, but they are highly organised and putting in maximum effort. “There are signs the mentality is growing,” Dyche said.
Thomas Frank made five attacking substitutions and it was telling as Everton were forced to hold on. Brentford repeatedly sent crosses into the box but the Everton defence did enough through headers and last-ditch tackles to keep the visitors at bay and secure the points.
Frank said: “It was a game of two halves, I thought that Everton were better than us in the first half and we were better in the second. We lost the physical battle in the first half. We created a lot of chances that easily could have given us a well-deserved draw.”