Alan Stubbs heaped praise on Chris Long after the striker helped Everton Under-21s get back to winning ways on his first start since returning from injury.
The Young Blues had suffered defeats against West Bromwich Albion and Bootle in recent weeks but addressed that form with a 3-1 victory over Southampton at the Merseyrail Community Stadium on Monday.
Long had been sidelined since the end of January when his loan spell with MK Dons was cut short due to a thigh complaint.
But the 19-year-old England youth international inspired Everton, scoring the equaliser and then winning the first of Luke Garbutt’s two successful penalties.
“To be honest, Chris has looked really sharp in training over the last 10 days and it has been great to get him back,” Stubbs told evertonfc.com.
“His all-round football is improving and he makes some very intelligent runs. It’s just about us trying to find him because once he gets half a yard there is every chance defenders aren’t going to get back to him.
“For his goal it was really bright play as he put the defender under pressure, was quick to win the ball and finished it well. He was a thorn in their side all night.”
Garbutt’s second-half spot-kick brace came about after Blues goalkeeper Mateusz Taudul pulled off a wonderful penalty save shortly before the interval.
Stubbs said the performances of the aforementioned duo were two more positives in what was an all-round pleasing evening’s work.
He added: “Luke is very confident with his penalties and he has got a good record with them. He didn’t look like missing.
“But all credit to Mat for making the save. To be fair to him, he read it well and got across. Those are the things that change games because we had got back into it at 1-1.
“We’ve had one or two indifferent performances recently so it was important to show the correct attitude to do things right again. I thought we gave a sloppy goal away early on but to come back, I thought the response was fantastic.
“We looked a threat and caused problems every time we got the ball forward. Some of our football was very good and we had a punch in the attacking areas with Magaye , Chris and George .”
The win lifted Everton up to 12th position in the table as they aim to secure a top half finish. Next up for Stubbs’ side is another important home clash with Arsenal, again at Southport this upcoming Thursday .