Roberto Martinez described debutant Matthew Pennington as Everton’s top performer in the first half against Barnsley – saying he only withdrew the young defender at the break for tactical reasons.
The 20-year-old’s first competitive appearance for the Club only lasted 45 minutes but the Academy graduate impressed his manager with how he acquitted himself on a challenging evening at Oakwell.
Pennington started at right-back and turned in a solid display alongside Phil Jagielka, John Stones and Bryan Oviedo but was substituted with the Blues trailing 2-0 and needing to offer more in attack.
“Matty was the best player on the pitch in the first half,” the Everton manager told evertontv. “From our point of view, it was just unfortunate that I had to make a more attacking change.
“Matty was the only player in that first half whose approach I was happy with. His concentration and his discipline, clearly he can be satisfied with his first 45 minutes work.”
As always, the Blues were backed by huge numbers at Oakwell and Martinez also had words of thanks for the 4,200 fans who battled through traffic problems to make it to South Yorkshire.
“On a Wednesday night for a live [televised] game, it was incredible,” he added. “We don’t need to tell ourselves we are a big club and all we do is try to make the fans proud.
“We are working extremely hard to have a winning team and the feeling at the end is real satisfaction for each other.
“We had to find that reaction [to going 2-0 down] and I was proud of every player who was on that pitch in the second half.”