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Arsenal (A) Sun 1 Mar 2015, 14:05, Barclays Premier League

by Hamish Dufton @efchamishdufton

Alan Stubbs insisted his side are still a work in progress despite Everton’s Under-21s earning their first point of the season at Reading.

Shane Duffy’s 38th-minute header was just reward for an improved performance from the Blues’ second string, who have found it tough going in their Under-21 Premier League campaign so far.

Speaking to after the game, Stubbs said: “I thought in the first half we didn’t deserve to be losing 1-0 and I felt we showed a bit of character to get back into the game. In the second half we looked like a team that has had a few defeats and wanted to protect what we had rather than going for the win and grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck.

“We had a couple of chances in the second half where, looking back, we could have done better. I didn’t ever think they were clear cut, but they were ones we could have made better use of.

“But I am happy for the lads because it has been a tough start to the campaign for them and to come away from Reading with a draw is a positive step in the right direction. I am happy from that point of view but there are obviously still some things that need work on.”

Defending set-plays may be at the top of that list after Reading were gifted the opening goal following the Blues’ failure to deal with a free-kick into the box but Stubbs insists it’s all part of the learning curve.

“To be fair there was a few things wrong with the opening goal, not just the header out,” he reflected. “But I am not going to criticize them because we will speak about it on the training ground and look to rectify it. We’ll work on it and move on.”

The young Toffees had chances to win the game, but the pass that would unlock the Royals’ rearguard was missing on this occasion. “I think it was quite obvious that we couldn’t quite find that final ball going forward,” accepts Stubbs. “We got ourselves in some good areas but just a little lack of concentration and quality in the final third meant it just didn’t really happen for us.”

However, the performance of deadline day signing Matt Kennedy, in his first appearance in an Everton shirt, was a particular highlight. His lively debut certainly made an impression on his manager.

“I have only seen two glimpses now of Matt and I thought there were some positives for him to take out of the game,” added Stubbs. “There is still a long way to go of course, and he is still adjusting to what we expect of him. But he can take a lot of credit from the performance.”

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