A disappointed Alan Stubbs felt his side’s 1-0 defeat at West Ham served as a timely reminder to the younger players in his squad of the levels they need to reach if they are to progress both as footballers and in their Under-21s Premier League campaign.
A youthful Blues line-up fell to Elliot Lee’s second half header and Stubbs cut a frustrated figure as the dust settled on Everton’s second defeat in a week.
“I don’t think we did enough to win the game but I certainly don’t feel we did enough to lose it,” he said.
“I thought on the overall play we were the better team. There wasn’t an awful lot in it.
“In the first half I thought we were the better team and should have come in at half-time in the lead. Then in the second, they got a grip of the midfield and we let them dominate, that’s the disappointing thing.
“We have had bits of possession but the pitch wasn’t great and I just felt that they played the conditions better.”
Stubbs was particularly exasperated by his side’s failure to adhere to a pre-match warning regarding corners and free-kicks, with Lee’s winner coming from a well-worked routine.
“The frustrating thing is that I told them before the game that they score a lot of goals from set pieces,” added Stubbs.
“They are a typical Sam Allardyce team – they work on set-pieces and get goals from them. They put the ball in areas and that’s how they have scored.”
In the end, the game served as a valuable lesson to Stubbs’ squad – particularly to those called up from the Under-18s.
“It is a stretch on us at the moment because we haven’t got a big squad. We have had to play young lads that shouldn’t really be playing but they are.
"They did alright but ‘alright’ is not good enough unfortunately at this level. We have to do well. Sometimes being ‘okay’ doesn’t take you to the next level and that’s what they are getting judged on now.
"Some of them are having to earn a contract for the first time. They have got to improve - it’s as simple as that.”