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Fringe benefits for Sean Dyche as duo return and help Everton’s climb continue

Sean Dyche was delighted with a couple of Everton’s fringe players after they stepped up to deliver in Saturday’s 2-0 Premier League win over his old club Burnley.

Former Claret Michael Keane scored Everton’s second in his first appearance since October 21, while alongside him in defence Ben Godfrey – making his first Premier League start of the season – made a vital block to prevent the Clarets getting back into it just before half-time.

Dyche said he had been forced to change his game plan significantly on Friday morning after Vitaliy Mykolenko joined the list of absentees but said the way his players responded showed they had bought into the system he and his staff are implementing.

“It’s something we built over my time here, not just me, the staff have been working really hard with the players to let them know the respect we have when they’re not in the side,” Dyche said.

“I’ve always thought the strongest groups I’ve played with or worked with are the people outside the starting 11 because they keep you strong, because they’re not just accepting it.

“I don’t mind players being disgruntled and asking me questions, but when it comes to your training do it right, do it properly and it will pay you back – and it is. There are people having to come in who haven’t played in a while but they’re coming and delivering.”

Those fringe players could be vital over the busy festive period, with Everton next facing a Carabao Cup quarter-final against Fulham on Tuesday. Abdoulaye Doucoure could be an injury doubt for that match after being replaced at half-time at Turf Moor with tightness in his hamstring.

For Burnley, who are among the sides Everton have beaten to reach the last eight in the League Cup, Saturday’s defeat left them with only eight points from 17 games, off the foot of the table on goal difference alone.

There were more encouraging signs in the performance but they were undone by two set-plays, with Amadou Onana allowed too much space to head in the opener from a corner, while Keane’s goal came as a result of a long free-kick pumped forward by Jordan Pickford.

It was another frustrating day at Turf Moor but the big positive was the return of Lyle Foster, who made his first appearance since October 21, coming on as a half-time substitute following time away to receive help with mental health issues.

Kompany welcomed the 23-year-old back but added a note of caution, saying this was only part of a process.

“We follow what the medical experts say,” Kompany said. “It’s step by step, it’s a small environment, it’s being with the team, being with the people he considers his friends. Keeping a very, very small world for him and that seems to put him in a good place. This is just part of his recovery as well.”

During the week, before it was known that Foster would play, Kompany had insisted the South Africa forward would not be available for the Africa Cup of Nations despite having been named in a 50-man provisional squad for the tournament that starts on January 13. That has not changed.

“It’s not even my decision – it’s not up to me,” he said. “We just can’t. It’s the medical advice we’re getting at the moment.

“The conflict of course is he loves to play for his country and from my side, I think AFCON is a big trophy, it’s a big competition, it’s important for me as an African coach to support the competition but it’s not up to me.

“We’ve done everything for the human being to this point, there’s no reason to change all of a sudden now.”

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