Alan Stubbs commended a disciplined defensive display as Everton Under-21s recorded another three points and a second consecutive clean sheet against Fulham on Monday evening.
Conor McAleny’s first-half strike proved decisive as the young Blues made it two wins from two at the start of their Group One campaign.
“In the second half we rode our luck a little bit but the lads showed a great spirit amongst themselves to repel Fulham,” said Stubbs. “You need that when you come away from home.
“They hit the crossbar a couple of times with shots from outside the box after we managed to get a goal inside the first half, when we looked threatening on the break. It gave us something to hold on to.
“I told the lads that 18 months ago we wouldn’t have been able to have ground out a result like that. We would have conceded and maybe lost the game from being in a winning position. The most pleasing thing for me was that they showed that desire to see the game out.
“I said at half-time that I wanted them to get a cushion and score the second goal and although that never happened, they showed a great attitude to defend, close the ball down and get into a good shape when we didn’t have possession.
“I’m happy with the win. It’s a clean sheet and another three points, and now we move on.”
Defender John Stones particularly caught the eye in what was his first appearance in an Everton shirt since joining from Barnsley two weeks ago.
“He [Stones] did well and he will need to get used to the way we play,” Stubbs said of the 18-year-old debutant. “It was the first game that he’d had for a few weeks so that will do him the world of good.
“He’s an option for the manager if called upon, so it’s great for him to get the first game under his belt.”
Stones took up his natural right-sided position, with regular full-back Tyias Browning shifting into the middle of defence to partner Shane Duffy.
Stubbs added: “Tyias has done great for us and tonight we have asked the players to be a bit more flexible.
“The more positions he can play, the better his understanding will be when it comes to whatever position he will end up in.
“Tonight he has done well as he hadn’t played there for a long time. It’s a learning curve for him which he will benefit from going forward in the future.”