Jordan Ayew is convinced Swansea City can maintain their points cushion over the relegation zone – even though two rungs of the ladder between themselves and the bottom three have been kicked away.
Ayew’s 11th goal of the season secured a 1-1 draw against Everton on Saturday, the least Swansea deserved after outplaying Sam Allardyce’s side for long periods at the Liberty Stadium.
Although wins for rivals Crystal Palace and Huddersfield dropped them two places to 17th, Swansea now have a five-point lead over Southampton who are in 18th position.
“I think it is a positive moment for the club and for me because we can’t forget where we were six months ago,” Ayew said.
“We are five points ahead of the bottom three now and this is a step forward.
“Even though we are moving slowly, it is a positive, and if we keep on playing like this we will make everyone happy.”
Swansea had scored only once in the three games top scorer Ayew had sat out following his red card at Huddersfield last month.
But Ayew, who was this week described as one of the Premier League’s best forwards by manager Carlos Carvalhal, gave Swansea a sharp focal point in attack.
“Although the first 10-15 minutes was difficult, I grew into the game and the boys produced a great performance,” Ayew said after his terrific 71st-minute strike cancelled out Kyle Naughton’s own goal just before half-time.
“Since I set foot in this club they put me in the best condition to express myself in the best way.
“When the gaffer came in he spoke to me within a day and said he was counting on me. He asked me where my best position was and everything is OK now.
“Every day I have a smile on my face and work hard when I go into training. We still have a bit of a stress, but six months ago we wouldn’t have got a draw in this game.
“It was one of our best performances of the season, but in football you can’t get everything.”
For manager Carlos Carvalhal the draw was a positive result, even though the gap between themselves and safety would now be a wide seven points if Tammy Abraham had found the net instead of blasting over from eight yards late on.
Carvalhal’s recent record shows no victories in the team’s last five matches in all competitions, although only one has been a Premier League defeat.
The Portuguese now faces games against Manchester City and Chelsea, before ending the season against Bournemouth, Southampton and Stoke.
Carvalhal insisted: “We are optimistic that if we play like that in all the three home games and two away games we have left, we will be safe in the Premier League.
“We played like we weren’t under pressure, with a big heart, but this is football. This was a situation where we deserved more than one point.
“Jordan changed our game because he kept the ball, the team are able breathe when he is on the pitch.
“I must say he played a fantastic game, all of the players played a great game against a side who were more relaxed with less pressure on themselves.”
Everton almost snatched a winner when Seamus Coleman struck the crossbar 15 minutes from time, but it is now only one victory in eight games for the Toffees.
And the travelling fans rounded on Allardyce both at half-time and when he replaced winger Yannick Bolasie with central defender Ramiro Funes Mori in the final quarter.
“It was a tough game and we knew it would be coming away to a team fighting to stay in the league,” full-back Leighton Baines told evertonfc.com
“We did not play enough stuff to keep them off, which invited a bit of pressure and they got a goal they might feel they deserved.
“If you look at their home record and the teams they have beaten on their own ground we were more than aware of the challenge in front of us.
“But we would still like to have performed better.”