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Stubbs: U21s Keep Raising Bar

by Daniel Alston @efc_danalston

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Alan Stubbs believes Everton Under-21s are continually raising their own standards following Monday's 3-2 cup victory at Middlesbrough.

The young Blues travelled to the Riverside Stadium with a place in the last-16 of the inaugural Premier League Cup up for grabs.

Matthew Kennedy's inch-perfect free-kick was supplemented by Chris Long's penalty in an impressive first-half display, before a Boro rally required Long's winner.

As well as securing progression in the tournament, the win extended an unbeaten run to six games - form that certainly pleases Stubbs.

He told evertonfc.com: "They're giving everything we're asking of them and that was a test of character - to be 2-0 up and comfortable and then a goal lifts the opposition. We could have done better with their goals, but it's always easier to think like that when you win.

"Our lads deserve a lot of credit and over the last two or three months, they've kept performing and the consistency is getting of a better standard week-in, week-out.

"We've got a lot of characters, a lot of winners, a real belief and desire among the team and these are great attributes to have."

The hosts' fightback after the break may have been cause for concern, but Stubbs insists his players remained focused on getting the result they deserved.

"I thought we controlled the game in the first 45," he added.

"It was a fair reflection on the game to go in 2-0 up at the break. We could even have had another couple of goals with the chances we created.

"We spoke to them at half-time to make sure we went about it right in the second half. To be fair to them, the biggest compliment I can pay them is that teams are changing their formations to match us and try to counteract our play because we are dominating possession.

"Even when teams do that, we have to be brave enough to keep getting on the ball.

"They've come into the game a bit and no two halves are the same but I said to our lads that I felt we rushed things a little bit in the second.

"Our decision-making when we had the ball wasn't like it was in the first half but we're being critical here when they're getting results.

"They are setting the bar at the moment, which from the point of view of David [Unsworth] and I, is great. Whatever we're throwing at them at the moment, they keep taking it onboard and excelling.

"They're like little sponges at the moment. Hopefully it'll stand them in good stead for the weeks and months ahead.

"There's a real good balance in the group - although the older lads are only 19, the younger lads start at 16. When you think about what we've got age-wise, they're doing really great and long may it continue."

Everton Under-21s face a wait to learn their next Premier League Cup opponents. Stay tuned to evertonfc.com for details of the draw.

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