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Alan Stubbs has applauded Everton Under-21s for achieving maximum points in difficult circumstances at Bolton on Thursday evening.

The Blues won 3-1 to end the first half of the Under-21 season on a high but had to contend with poor weather conditions and a rain-soaked surface at the County Ground in Leyland.

The victory ensures Everton finish fourth in the league table following a three-match unbeaten mini-run.

Stubbs told evertontv: “We did well to keep the game on because the conditions were atrocious. Give the referee credit, he let the game be played. On another day it would have probably been called off.

“In the end the lads were really good. Not just with the football, but their attitude as well.”

New EPPP rules saw a radical restructure in the format of the reserve setup at the start of this season.

Rebranded as the Under-21 Premier League, 22 clubs were split into three divisions; one comprising of eight and two consisting of seven.

After a double round-robin format, teams are now divided into three new groups based on league standings in the first half of the season.

The Blues missed out qualifying for the Elite Group by just one point as they finished just behind West Ham United, Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion.

Everton will definitely be joined in Group One - which will be made up of eight clubs - by Reading, Chelsea and Middlesbrough.

Four other clubs from Sunderland, Manchester United, Aston Villa, Newcastle United, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Fulham and Manchester City will also qualify for that group.

Stubbs added: “We have finished pretty well but there were games we let slip. We should have finished in the top three but I’m sure other teams can say the same thing.

“We were a little bit like this last year. We didn’t start off well and then had a really strong finish.

“After Christmas we will be playing completely different teams. It will be a fresh challenge against teams with different styles of play.

“We will have to watch them and adjust accordingly. We will take things as they come and we don’t know who we have got until later this month when the fixtures come out at the end of December.”

The Under-21s now take a break from competitive action for a month, but Stubbs says they will still be working hard on a daily basis at Finch Farm.

“We have finished now for Christmas and hopefully we can pick up from where we left-off,” added the 41-year-old.

“We will probably now have a couple of friendly games just to keep us ticking over. I’m sure the lads will get a bit of time off, just a couple of days, but it won’t be too long.

“We will then be back in getting ready for the start of the new season on January 12.”

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