David Unsworth says Everton's Under-21s must ready themselves for a “four-game season” after they slipped to a harsh 3-0 defeat at Chelsea.
The young Blues got caught twice on the break late on at Aldershot Town’s Recreation Ground as they pushed to get something from a contest that was far more even than the scoreline suggested.
The loss means Everton remain in the bottom two of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League but with a game in hand that could see them leapfrog nearest rivals Fulham.
And despite having nine players out on loan at present, Unsworth has every faith his youthful side can pick up the wins they need to climb the table.
“These young players are learning all the time and they’re learning new lessons every day and in every game,” the former defender told evertonfc.com. “With every goal you concede and every defeat, you have to learn from it and we’re being punished at the moment for the slightest mistakes and the slightest errors.
“But the games are coming thick and fast now, and that’s great.
“We’ve got Liverpool in the next game and I’m sure that will be fantastic at Goodison, then we’ve got a massive week where we play Sunderland away and West Ham away.
“I’ve told the players we have to step up now. We’ve got a four game season where we’ve got to win a couple of games but I’ve got every faith in this group.
“There’s some great players, they’re learning right in at the deep end at the moment and that’s the way we like it, the way we want it, but we’ve got to learn fast and take [the lessons] into the last four games.”
Chelsea, themselves fighting to move away from the bottom of the table, went 1-0 up when winger Jordan Houghton headed in with 18 minutes played.
It remained that way until substitute Tammy Abraham struck eight minutes from the end, with the same player completing the scoring with just seconds of injury-time remaining.
“It was a tough night for us,” Unsworth admitted. “We've stayed in the game for the majority of it and we've had a great chance at 1-0 down when Sam Byrne’s come on, he’s got in behind and, unfortunately, we couldn’t take that opportunity.
“We've then thrown caution to the wind by putting David Henen up front and bringing Kieran Dowell on and been caught by two late goals on the counter-attack.
“The first goal is a mistake and it was disappointing really to gift them a goal from a corner like we did. But we stayed in the game and we grew into it in the second half, created opportunities, certainly had a lot more possession than we did in the first half, and it’s great to credit to the lads that they kept going and tried to get back into the game.
“But if you chase a game, you’ve still got to be safe and keep it tight at the back and, unfortunately, we weren’t able to do that.”
After Liverpool, Sunderland and West Ham, Everton's last game of the season is at home against Tottenham Hotspur.