Alan Stubbs has paid tribute to some of his youngest Blues as Everton Under-21s look to end the season with a five-game unbeaten streak.
Monday's 1-1 draw against Liverpool was the least the Toffees deserved from an enthralling mini-derby at the Merseyrail Community Stadium.
That result means a top-half finish is now all but sealed ahead of Thursday evening’s campaign-closer at Southport against Middlesbrough.
With many of the more senior members of Stubbs' group heading out on loan this term, opportunities have opened up for some of the Under-18s within the Club’s Finch Farm Academy.
A strong contingent of Merseyside-born scholars embraced the occasion on Monday and the former Everton skipper was not left disappointed.
Stubbs told evertontv: "I thought the lads controlled the game really well and I felt there were some outstanding performances from some of our younger players.
"Overall I am thoroughly pleased and happy with the way some of them are progressing. If they keep going as they are going then they will have bright futures.
"There is one thing that I can never question this season and that is the character of the players. I said to them in the dressing room afterwards that when you have got ability, you have got desire and you have got character, they are great ingredients to have in a professional footballer.
"I’m glad to say that quite a lot of them in that dressing room have got that. It’s very pleasing to see.
"It was great to have Jonjoe Kenny back – he plays the game with a real maturity and he has a great little football brain.
"And there are not many midfielders I have seen in the league that are better than Joe Williams and Ryan Ledson for their age. There are more to mention but they are the ones that have been with us all season. It looks promising for them at this moment in time."
Another local teenager, Chris Long, was withdrawn in the early stages after suffering a collision with the Reds goalkeeper.
Long was grounded for several minutes with blood pouring from his head, but Stubbs was able to confirm his striker's wellbeing after the game.
"He’s okay – he is probably too brave for his own good!" the Under-21s boss added.
"The keeper has come out, caught him and Longy has a nasty little scar on his forehead. I think he had nine stitches in it.
"Chris has been outstanding for us since he has come back from injury. He has been a real threat and his overall game is coming on leaps and bounds.
"It’s a shame for him that he had to go off because he would have caused Liverpool problems. But the most important thing is that he is okay. It was quite a nasty collision."
Everton Under-21s take on Middlesbrough at Southport FC's Merseyrail Community Stadium on Thursday, 7pm.
Admission is free for Season Ticket holders and FOREVERTON members, with tickets on the turnstiles otherwise priced at £5 for adults and £3 for concessions.