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

by Daniel Alston @efc_danalston

Everton Under-21s can seal top place in their league table with a point or better at home to Sunderland on Monday.

The Blues' second-string have been in impressive form in the second stage of the campaign and a draw or victory at the Merseyrail Community Stadium can ensure they finish at the summit of Group One with two games remaining.

The reward for such a feat is a place in the final phase of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League competition - something that manager Alan Stubbs believes his side deserve for stringing together their current 12-match unbeaten run.

With second-place Aston Villa losing to Fulham on Sunday, a solitary point is now all that is required from Monday evening's meeting with the Black Cats.

And speaking to evertontv before the weekend, Stubbs insisted his young Blues have what it takes to get the job done.

He said: "Being honest, I expect them to get over the line because there's no way they're going to fall short now with the effort they've put in over the year.

"It's a stage of the season they've probably never come across so I've said to them that I'll take all the pressure so that they can go out and perform.

"We've got to focus on doing what we've been doing, which has been really good."

Sunderland head into the contest bottom of Group One, with just four points from 10 games.

One of that tally was picked up at home to the Blues in February - a game that Everton rallied from 2-0 down to draw.

"Sunderland have probably had a tough time when you look at the group," Stubbs added.

"But it wasn't an easy game when we played them up there.

"Whatever the results have been, they'll always give you a tough game. We'll be ready and waiting for whatever they come with on Monday."

Conor McAleny

Regardless of the run-in and eventual outcome, Stubbs insists his troops have done themselves proud.

"I've got to say the lads have been fantastic," he said. "Their effort, desire and willingness not to be beaten has been commendable and hats off to them.

"At this level, sometimes it's a balancing act. The most important thing is performances and not neccessarily results. But in order for them to keep performing and gain confidence, you do need results along the way.

"We don't ideally want them winning every week by playing badly. We want them to perform because ultimately that will help them get near the first-team. The fact that they are performing and improving all the time will give the manager a headache, whereas if they're not playing well, they won't get anywhere near his squad.

"They deserve to finish top but they've got to go out and earn it

"Looking back now and being really honest, they've achieved more than I expected - and that's all credit to them. I set them a target of going through this group unbeaten and at this moment in time, we are still on course to do that.

"If we can come through these next three games unbeaten as well, I think we will be worthy winners."

Kick-off for Monday's game is at 7pm. Everton Season Ticket holders and FOREVERTON members are able to gain free admission to all home Under-21 fixtures at Southport.

Members of the public can gain access by payment at the turnstiles (adults £5, concessions £3). Southport Season Ticket holders will also be able to gain entry for free.

For those unable to attend, and the Club's official Twitter feed will provide updates, with highlights and interviews on evertontv on Tuesday.

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