Everton players were impressive in Wednesday's 1-0 win at Newcastle United despite being drained after a taxing Merseyside derby in the Premier League last Sunday, manager Sam Allardyce has said.
Everton have revived their season after Allardyce took over last month, winning three of their last four league games to climb to 10th position, but the Englishman says his team had to battle for their latest win after the 1-1 draw with Liverpool.
"It was an exceptionally good performance on the basis that we're perhaps running on empty after playing on Sunday with the effort we put in," Allardyce told reporters.
"The defence have done a fantastic job and that has been the bedrock to our upturn in fortunes. We're heading in the right direction, in the top half of the table where we want to finish in May if we can."
In-form striker Wayne Rooney, who has notched five goals and an assist in Everton's last four league games, urged his teammates to keep the momentum going during a busy festive schedule.
"It's always a difficult game, especially when you're looking to pick up three points. We dug in, defended really well and made the most of the chances we had. We're delighted and it's a great win for us," Rooney said.
"It's challenging for all of the players. We have to look at these next few games over Christmas, try and get as many points as we can and see how we come out of it.
"If we come out of it in a higher league position than we are, then I'm sure we'll reassess our goals for the end of the season."
Everton host basement side Swansea City in the league on Monday.