David Unsworth was full of praise for his players despite their exit on penalties at the hands of Leicester City in their Premier League International Cup quarter final.
Goals from Chris Long and Harry Charsley were not enough to overcome the Foxes and so a shootout was needed, with Tyias Browning and Jonjoe Kenny seeing their efforts saved.
But Unsworth couldn’t fault his side and believed the performance deserved a better outcome.
“It was cruel!” he rued. “The lads were outstanding from the first minute to the last second of extra time – the performance merited a win. They showed great character to come back against a proper Under-21 aide, especially given we were basically a youth side out there.
“I am really proud of the performance and the way that they put the work in. Our fitness levels were incredible – we kept going and kept going and the young lads really brought a spark to the game.
“Performance is all that matters and we have so many young, young players who we are using in the Under-21s at the moment. We had so many 16 and 17 year olds out there against Leicester competing against men really. It’s the way they learn and the way we can bring them on quicker. It was a great experience to have a penalty shoot-out as well.
“So it was disappointing not to get to the semi-finals, I thought we were the better team and I am very proud of the players.”
Such are the limited numbers from which Unsworth can choose a side from that he took the unusual decision to make the most of a clause in Chris Long’s youth loan at Brentford.
Rules stipulate that a player on a youth loan is still able to play for the reserve and Academy sides at their parent club, and as such Long found himself back in Everton colours, marking the occasion with the opener.
“It was a great finish from Chris – he showed what he is all about,” added Unsworth. “Unfortunately he had to come off with a nasty gash to his leg. He had a few stitches and he should be fine. We will reassess that as soon as we get back.
“He was able to play for us under the terms of his youth loan. We are really stretched at the moment with so many out on loan and Longy has not been starting for Brentford lately. He needed a game so we have been able to use him.
“We are delighted with what he is doing down at Brentford. He is having a great experience but at the same time we need to develop him. He is an Everton footballer and he needs a few more games from now until the summer.”