Phil Parkes: Toffees win left a sweet taste in the mouth after our festive frustrations

If we have a good month and get good results it will give us confidence.

The Everton result on New Year’s Day completely changed how I felt about our games over the Christmas period.

Those three points made a huge difference when you look at some of our other results – particularly our games against Palace and Brighton.

I honestly didn’t expect us to come away from Goodison Park with anything so the fact we left Liverpool with all three points goes a long way to making up for the dropped points against Brighton and Palace as well as the disappointment of those games.

After a Christmas period where the games come thick and fast, things start to space out again in January with the arrival of the FA Cup.

In my day, the FA Cup was a nice distraction. It didn’t matter if you were doing well in the league or struggling, the FA Cup was always something you’d look forward to.

Things have changed somewhat and today’s clubs don’t take it as seriously which is a real shame because it’s a huge competition and the fans love it.

But playing a side in the National League really gives us the chance to build on the two performances and results against Southampton and Brighton and keep the momentum going.

The alternative is that there is a cup shock and we could see it having a negative impact on us – like the impact Oxford and Wimbledon defeats had on us.

We’ve also got Burnley, West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace coming up this month so there are points there to be won.

If we struggle to pick up any points this month, it’ll have a huge impact on our chances of ending the season in the top half of the table.

I can’t see us breaking into the top six this season because to do that you need more consistency than we have at the moment.

But if we can have a good month and we get good results then it will help us kick on and give us confidence.

I didn’t get to watch the Everton game but that’s probably a good thing because it didn’t sound like the most inspiring game.

But from what I saw on the highlights and what I’ve read about the game, the result was testament to the effort the lads put in.

It came after another disciplined performance against Southampton that could have seen us take all three points had Benrahma put away his chance near the end.

It was a great chance and a good save but I’m sure he was kicking himself that he didn’t score what would have been his first goal for the club.

But two clean sheets, two on the bounce, which doesn’t happen very often, against two sides playing well is not to be sniffed at.

As for Soucek’s goal against Everton, I don’t know how he does it but he just keeps finding himself in the right position and keeps reacting quicker than everyone else.

He did the same with his goal against Brighton in that he didn’t know much about it but he still managed to put it away.

Everton had won four games before our visit so I was really pleased with the result because Everton are one of those sides where we don’t tend to get much from.

Two other sides that we have struggled against of late are Palace and Brighton – both their games last month were hugely disappointing.

Palace beat us twice last year and we ended up with two score draws against Brighton last season.

You do get teams that you just always struggle against, and you also have teams that you always fancy yourselves against.

Maybe to come away with five points against Everton, Palace and Brighton is acceptable on paper given we only picked up one point from the same fixtures last season but the performances against the latter two weren’t good enough.

The difference between our games against Everton and Southampton and the draws against Palace and Brighton was the defending.

We defended well against the Toffees and Saints but for the other two, it looked like our defence had only met up for the first time in the car park before the game!

The Chelsea result was also unfair on us because I thought we played well and had it stayed at 1-0, I think we could have taken a point at the end.

Instead they score two goals in quick succession to kill off the game.

One of the teams we are playing this month are West Brom who sacked ex West Ham boss Slaven Bilic and replaced him with another ex West Ham boss in Sam Allardyce.

They deserve everything they get with their appointment of Big Sam. He was born not far from West Brom so it’s the prodigal son returning.

But you could see after that first goal went in against Leeds and the cameras immediately picked up Allardyce’s reaction that he must’ve been thinking: ‘What have I got myself into here?’

It’s just a shame in football today that as soon as things start to go wrong they sack the manager.

There are exceptions though like Norwich and I was pleased to see they stuck with their manager and look at them now, top of the Championship and looking like they will bounce straight back up.

Sheffield United also appear to be sticking with their manager where a lot of sides would have probably panicked and given him the sack already. 

Their results since Project Restart in the summer to now have been awful and sitting on just two points at the end of December was a disaster for them.

I think it’s great they are showing him loyalty but I’m not sure if it will be enough to save them.

I would like to think whatever happens this season that they stick with him and if they do go down, then they will give him a shot at getting them back up at the first time of asking.

Finally, it was great to see Antonio get some minutes against Southampton and Everton.

You could see the Southampton defenders drop back 10 yards straight away when he came on because they were frightened of him.

They knew what he could do to them and they were scared of his pace. Antonio coming back into the side is great for us.

It gave us a huge boost against Southampton, as I’m sure it did against Everton.

He can change games and his impact was so noticeable in the game against the Saints.

He’s nowhere as fit as he can be but if he gets back up to speed and we keep him fit until the end of the season then I’m excited to see what this team is capable of.

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