Sean Dyche said the league table does not lie after he watched his Everton side slip back into the Premier League’s relegation zone with a goalless draw at Crystal Palace.
The visitors’ hopes of earning the win they needed to boost their survival chances were dashed when Mason Holgate was sent off 10 minutes from time for a second booking, after he interrupted Jordan Ayew’s burst down the wing with a clumsy trip.
It came after a period of pressure for Dyche’s team when they had looked the likelier to find the decisive goal. Dominic Calvert-Lewin on his first start since February placed a shot wide after a clever touch and spin, as Everton came within inches.
Holgate’s sending off turned the tide of pressure back their way, with Palace going close through Tyrick Mitchell and Luka Milivojevic who had shots blocked, as they sought the win that would all but guarantee their top-flight survival.
Palace look likely to be fine after Roy Hodgson’s unbeaten run since returning as manager extended to four games, but Everton have no such luxury after Leicester’s win against Wolves dropped them into the relegation places with six games to play.
“It’s just the reality, that’s the league table,” said Dyche. “I don’t really bother with it until the end. The most important table is the one at the end of the season. Nothing means anything apart from that one.
“The bit in between is the performance level, the fitness of the players, the organisation, the strategy, the process we go through to make sure that table looks right for us.
“I hope (performances like this can keep Everton up). The hardest thing to measure when things aren’t going your way is the reality of the opposition.
“They (Palace) had just won three on the trot. They come into their home ground feeling buoyant, feeling great, feeling ready to play with a but more freedom, with a few points on the board.
“To go in and take that on and be as secure as we were, I was pleased with that side of things. I still think we can play better, I think we can create more. We have got injuries, we have had injuries, we’ve got suspensions.”
Dyche had no complaints with referee John Brooks’ decision to dismiss Holgate in the 80th minute.
It gave his players the opportunity to show they have what it takes to dig in and grind out a result.
“Inevitably you get two yellows and you have to go,” he said. “The second one, he’s almost got the ball, he’s touched the ball but his foot has kind of slid over the top of the ball. I can see why the ref gives it, but on another day you might get away with that one.
“But the shape was good, the commitment to it was good. We were on the edge of finding the moment, but didn’t quite find it. You’ve got to be careful with those decision. Sometimes the hardest thing to do in football is nothing.
“When you go down to 10, it’s not easy here anyway. They had a tough run before they won three, but generally it’s a tough place to play at. They’re the in-form side.
“To keep them to real minimal chances – they had one chance from distance, Jordan (Pickford) made a really good save. But we kept that side of it pretty clean from our point of view, defended well. The keeper and two centre-halves played well I thought.
“The commitment to it at the end was good. You go down to 10, it’s not easy. They are flashing corners in but we dealt with it well.”
Palace boss Hodgson opted to dwell on his side’s recent good form rather than rue their failure to break the 10 men down in the final minutes.
They move onto 37 points, nine clear of Everton in 18th and with the poor run of form that led to Patrick Vieira’s sacking in March seemingly now behind them.
“I was pleased with the way we penned them in in the last 10 or 15 minutes, a few balls bobbling around in their six-yard box,” said Hodgson.
“It won’t go down as one of the best Premier League matches ever played, but in a way it was because it’s 10 points from four games. That’s a lot of points to get from four games.”