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'I just haven't been on the secret to his that busy' Pickford run of clean sheets; PICKFORD HAILS ROLE OF TEAM-MATES AFTER EIGHTH SHUTOUT IN LAST 10 GAMES... AND SAYS FORTRESS MENTALITY IS BACK AT GOODISON.

Byline: DAVID PRENTICE

JO R D A N PICKFORD celebrated his eighth clean sheet in his last 10 appearances against Burnley on Friday night, in much the same way as he had enjoyed his previous seven: by watching and waiting.

Pickford's latest shutout means Everton have achieved a level of defensive security not seen since the great Neville Southall kept seven clean sheets in a row during the 1994/95 campaign.

The Everton and England goalkeeper was keen to deflect the praise after the 2-0 win, but in only his second full season at Goodison he is already gathering plaudits.

Pickford's latest clean sheet was his 24th in the Premier League, with only Nigel Martyn, Tim Howard and the imperious Southall having kept more for Everton.

And the 2-0 half-time scoreline means Everton haven't conceded a firsthalf goal now in 10 successive matches.

The last time an Everton team started matches so solidly was between December 1986 and January 1987 in the last titlewinning campaign. But Pickford admitted: "I haven't been that busy in the last 10 games to be honest.

"The lads have been performing terrifically to stop the ball going anywhere near the goal, but when I'm called upon I'll be ready.

"Our mentality going on to the pitch is to keep a clean sheet.

"We've worked hard as a unit in the team and the clean sheets are down to all 11 of us."

The lack of goalmouth action - Burnley managed just one shot on target all night in Everton's final home match of the season - means Pickford has had to pick up his concentration levels.

But it is an art he is enjoying.

"There are two different types of clean sheets," the goalkeeper added.

"You can have an absolute worldie making save after save, or one where you don't have much work to do but when you're called upon you make sure you do it properly."

The now omnipresent pre-match siren and the addition of flags on the Gwladys Street and Park End stands helped create another lively Goodison atmosphere, and Pickford believes the crowd has helped contribute to the recent run of impressive home performances.

Since the siren was introduced before the Goodison derby, Everton have held Liverpool, beaten Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United and have now disposed of Burnley.

"The siren's not bad is it?" said the Blues keeper.

"I remember it before the Liverpool game and it was quality. Anything to get the fans going makes our job easier.

"I wasn't here when Goodison was bouncing in the Moyes days but I remember coming here with Sunderland in my first season in the Premier League and it was a tough place to come to and play.

"But that's down to us. "We know if we perform and keep putting on performances with determination, the fans will make it a fortress.

"It's down to us to perform to make the crowd lively.

"That's what we want to do because we know how much it means to them.

"We're a passionate club and if we're performing the fans are going to perform for us. When it's like that it's a hard place to come as an opponent. We played well again (against Burnley)."

The end-of-season lap of appreciation was an altogether more positive occasion than last season's funereal procession after a final-day home draw with Southampton.

Pickford added: "You can see the difference. We performed well towards the end of last season, too, but this season we've kicked on.

"Unfortunately we had a blip between November to January but that sometimes happens in football and we've shown character to recover from that. Once again England goalkeeper Pickford was the subject for some playful banter from the visiting Burnley fans.

But despite being described as "England's number two" by fans of a club who have their own England hopefuls in Tom Heaton and Nick Pope - and then "you're just a s**t Joe Hart", Pickford did not react and smiled: "You just have to be a man, have a laugh and enjoy it.

"That's football."

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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 6, 2019
Words:696
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