Everton Under-21s coach Alan Stubbs said he couldn't fault his side's performance after watching them maintain their unbeaten start to 2013 with a deserved 1-0 win at Chelsea.
A thumping strike from forward Conor McAleny gave the young Blues all three points at the hosts’ Cobham training ground, extending their purple patch in Group 1 of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League to six games.
That stretch has now brought a total of five wins and one draw, putting Stubbs’ charges comfortably in control at the top of their table.
“Sometimes when you come to big clubs - the clubs at the top of the Premier League - you feel inferior and you think that they're better than you,” Stubbs told evertonfc.com. “I tried to emphasise before the game that we're top of our league, we've got more points than them, as far as I'm concerned we've got better players in our dressing room than them, and I feel we proved that.
“We've conceded a couple of goals recently which have been a bit sloppy and not like us, and then we've come away today and kept a great clean sheet.
“On top of that, Conor McAleny has scored an absolutely fantastic goal and, overall, I was happy with our play, I thought we looked dangerous when we went forward and that we went forward with a real purpose.
“If you look at the whole game, they did all I asked and we deserved our victory. Chelsea had a bit of pressure towards the end but it was more huff and puff than really creating chances.”
The only negative for Everton was the late sending off of Ross Barkley after the midfielder was involved in an off-the-ball altercation.
Barkley appeared to raise a hand in the direction of an opponent, prompting the referee to issue a straight red card.
“Ross's football was outstanding at times today but he made some silly decisions after some really good pieces of play and was trying to do too much when he could have played it simple.
“He's let himself down with the sending off. He shouldn't have given the referee the dilemma as to whether to send him off.
“He hasn't punched the boy but he has raised his arm, which you can't do. I can see why [the referee] has sent him off, so I've got no complaints.”
Stubbs was also keen to praise teenager Mason Springthorpe after the goalkeeper made solid second-half stops from Lewis Baker and Todd Kane to ensure the win.
“Mason made a couple of important stops and got down once or twice to make some strong one-handed saves,” said Stubbs. “They were ones I would expect him to make but it's easy for me saying that - he's still got to do it. He did well.”
>> Chelsea Under-21s 0-1 Everton Under-21s - Match Report