David Unsworth says his Everton Under-23s have a “lot of work to do” on their attacking play after opening the season with a scoreless draw at West Ham.
The defending Premier League 2 champions had to fight tooth and nail to keep out their newly-promoted opponents before half-time in Dagenham.
Unsworth, who lost striker Calum Dyson to injury inside the first 15 minutes, altered his tactics and personnel at the break.
And with substitute Conor Grant adding some ballast to Everton’s midfield, the young Blues gained control of the contest and went close to winning it when the excellent Jonjoe Kenny drilled a shot against the post.
“I thought it was a fair result but in the final third we were not good enough – or clinical enough,” said Unsworth.
“But our back four was outstanding; they defended really well, got blocks in and put their bodies on the line.
“It was great to keep a clean sheet. If we can’t win a game we don’t want to lose it. But we have a lot of work to do in the final third because we can be a lot better.
“Our senior players were terrific, they led by example. We were under the cosh in the first half and losing Calum Dyson was a big blow.”
Unsworth admitted his hand had been forced slightly over his substitutions. But he was boosted by his charges’ brighter second-half display and is anticipating further improvement as the season takes off.
The Under-23s play at Notts County in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday, before welcoming Leicester to Goodison Park on Friday night.
“We wanted to play with two strikers but had to change that when Calum went off,” said Unsworth.
“I think the changes we made at half-time helped us get control of the game but we just did not have that cutting edge in the final third.
“When Calum went off we didn’t have an out-and-out number nine to play alongside Bassala Sambou.
“We tried playing with a number 10 but couldn’t get him the ball and felt we were just a little short in midfield. So we went with an extra midfielder. It worked and helped us get a bit of control.
“And we did create some chances. But, then again, right at the end, West Ham created a couple, as well.
“It is good that we have run of games coming up now. That is what we want and, hopefully, we will get our sharpness in the final third with the games coming thick and fast. But if we want to kill off teams and be dominant, we have to be better in the final third.”