Alan Stubbs insisted that the manner in which Everton Under-21s secured victory over Newcastle United on Tuesday evening epitomised his team’s strength of character.
The Blues made it 16 matches unbeaten, twice clawing back a deficit to register a 3-3 draw before winning the tie 5-3 on penalties.
Everton’s prize for beating the Magpies is a spot in the semi-finals of the Under-21s Premier League against Tottenham Hotspur – a reward Stubbs believes his team thoroughly merit.
“The penalties were top drawer and the lads showed a lot coolness, calmness and character to step up there and take them after a long 120 minutes,” Stubbs told evertontv.
“It is a lottery when it goes to penalties. It’s not a nice way to lose and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone as I’ve been involved in a couple [of shoot-outs]. It isn’t a great way.
“I thought in the first half we were very good and we should have capitalised on that. We should have been a couple of goals up at half-time.
“In the second half we seemed to drop a little bit and we gave them encouragement to come into the game. They scored a goal against the run of play which obviously put our players on the back foot.
“But the one thing this team has got is character because we have come back a few times this season when we have gone down, and that’s all credit to the players.
“At 3-2 there would have been certain teams and certain players who would have thought that was it, but we kept going until the very end.
“I didn’t think we deserved to lose, so that was great and a reward for all the hard work that they have put in this season.”
A date for the away semi-final at Spurs has yet to be confirmed, although Stubbs says his team will travel to the capital with confidence.
The winners of that tie will then face either Manchester United or Liverpool in the final.
“You take one game at a time and we will go to Tottenham now, which is going to be really tough,” added the former Blues defender.
“Tottenham could potentially be the best team in the competition at the moment, so it’s going to be tough. But we will prepare and rest the lads and see what happens.”