Unsy: Seniors Led The Way

by Daniel Alston

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David Unsworth believes Arouna Kone, Bryan Oviedo and Conor McAleny are all on course to hand Roberto Martinez a welcome boost to his first-team squad.

The trio all started and scored for Everton Under-21s in Monday night's free-entry game at Goodison Park against Sunderland, with the young Blues grabbing a late 3-2 victory.

Permitted to play as per the rules on overage players in a matchday squad, the fixture served as the perfect step towards finding match fitness for the senior players, who have all been out with long-term injuries.

And with each finding the net in front of over 1,250 Blues in attendance, Unsworth feels they will now carry added confidence for the campaign.

He told evertontv: "It was perfect in that sense. I was delighted with the senior boys - their work rate, commitment and effort was terrific and they showed their quality in areas where we needed it.

"They got vital minutes under their belts and they're back in the first-team squad with the manager now and that game should set them up for the rest of the season."

Elsewhere, it was a prominently youthful side taking part in their second game at Goodison in the space of a week.

This time, however, there was not only a more sizable crowd, but the addition of live TV cameras with the fixture being broadcast on Sky Sports.

It will have been a new experience for many of Unsworth's teenagers, but one he feels they coped with admirably.

"It's exposure that they're not used to and great for the development programme that they're in," he added. "We've got 16 and 17-year-olds in this squad - for them to play in a big stadium under the lights and on live TV is what every player dreams of.

"We know our performances can sometimes be better but I'm very proud of how our lads stepped up to the challenge.

"It was a better second half performance from us. I was a little bit disappointed with how we went about the start. As much as we did go ahead, Sunderland gave us some problems. I thought the boys stepped up their performance after the break and we showed some real clinical finishing.

"Especially for the young boys, it's a big thing for them to play here under the lights in front of a good number of fans. They don't get that exposure very often and nerves can get the better of you when you're a young player. You need to know how to handle them. That alone in the last couple of games has been a vital lesson for them.

"It was a nice touch from the Club [to make it free entry]. It was nice to get a good number in to watch the lads and it's very much appreciated so thank you to all those fans who did come."


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