Everton Under-23s captain Morgan Feeney scored the winner as the young Blues beat Newcastle United 1-0 at Goodison Park to win the Premier League Cup.
The Academy graduate planted home a header just before the hour mark as the Premier League 2 champions completed a trophy double in front of around 1,500 fans at the Grand Old Lady.
It was a deserved victory for David Unsworth’s team, who delivered an authoritative performance and carved out a host of opportunities.
Before Feeney made the breakthrough, the exceptional Josh Bowler hit the post while striker Fraser Hornby had twice come within fractions of breaking the deadlock.
It was the skipper who provided the game’s decisive moment, however, powerfully heading in Antony Evans' inviting free-kick delivery as Everton became the first team to complete a league and cup double in the current format of development football.
While Everton were the progressive team throughout, it was the Magpies who threatened first.
A Matthew Longstaff corner fell at the feet of Luke Charnley, who attempted to turn the ball in from no more than six yards out. Feeney took the sting out of the striker’s effort with a brave block and a goalmouth scramble ensued before Joao Virginia gathered the loose ball.
The Toffees gradually began to exert their authority, attacking with pace, purpose and guile.
In-form winger Bowler was the source of most of the Toffees’ most dangerous attacks and, 20 minutes in, he weaved his way into the visitors’ penalty area. Bowler was met by two Magpies defenders but expertly swivelled and fired at goal, forcing Newcastle ‘keeper Nathan Harker into a smart save low down to his right.
Eight minutes later, Evans made a strong connection with an effort from 25 yards out, but Harker was there again to make a comfortable stop.
Bowler’s influence was growing by the minute and he superbly dug out a cross that looped over the Newcastle goalkeeper. Fraser Hornby busted a gut in an attempt to get on the end of it at the back post and acrobatically threw himself at the ball, but it was just too far in front of him. Any connection would surely have resulted in the game’s opening goal.
Hornby then curled one from outside the box that went just over, before Harker was again at full-stretch to deny Bowler’s low drive.
Everton’s best chance of the half came two minutes before the interval. Again, it was Bowler and Hornby who combined. The winger fizzed in a devilish low cross for the Scotland Under-21 international, who had escaped his marker in the penalty area. Hornby could not keep his first-time shot down, though, and Newcastle survived.
Everton kept up the pressure after the break and Dennis Adeniran produced a marvellous piece of skill to work space for a shooting opportunity 30 yards out – the midfielder’s rising shot cleared the crossbar, however.
The relentless Bowler then embarked on another thrilling run at the heart of the Magpies backline, before hitting the outside of the post with a daisy-cutter from the edge of the box.
It was Bowler who won the free-kick which led to the game’s only goal. After getting away from Liam Gibson – brother of Toffees centre-back Lewis – the defender pulled Bowler back.
Evans whipped in the free-kick from wide on the right, his cross eluded goalkeeper Harker and Toffees skipper Feeney was there to nod in.
Newcastle responded to the setback well, and a wicked cross from Callum Roberts was brilliantly tipped away by Virginia when striker Elias Sorensen was well positioned.
Thomas Allan's curling effort from inside the srea was then blocked by Lewis Gibson as the Toffees defended resolutely.
Everton, whose miserly backline has been the cornerstone of their success this season, subsequently managed the game expertly to secure a remarkable double.