Everton Under-21s first Checkatrade Trophy match of the season ended in a 2-1 defeat against Notts County.
The young Blues were two goals adrift at half-time and despite a much-improved second-half display they couldn’t overturn the deficit.
The first attempt on goal came in the 10th minute when Jorge Grant, who scored twice in County’s League Two win against Chesterfield at the weekend, fired in a low shot that was well saved by Louis Gray. Everton failed to clear the resulting corner kick and former Manchester United and England striker Alan Smith headed over.
Smith then squandered an excellent opportunity when he headed wide from eight yards.
Everton nearly took the lead when Luke Garbutt crossed from the left and Conor Grant was unfortunate to see his well-placed header hit the woodwork. Basalla Sambou’s follow-up effort was scrambled to safety by County keeper Branislav Pindroch.
But it was the home side creating the better openings and the dangerous Grant again forced Gray into a smart save with a left-foot snapshot from the edge of the box. The opening goal of the night came in the 30th minute when Jonathan Forte turned nicely and placed a neat finish past Gray into the corner of the net.
The lead was doubled six minutes later when Elliot Hewitt headed a deep centre across the face of the goal and Haydn Hollis has the simplest of tasks to nod the ball over the line.
David Unsworth made two changes at the break, introducing Antony Evans and Anton Donkor for Josh Bowler and Garbutt and it didn’t take long for the alterations to pay dividends.
It was Donkor who picked up the ball in space on the left of the County penalty area before rifling a ferocious shot that found the net via the foot of the post.
Everton looked brighter in the second period and Sambou was just too high with a glancing header from a splendid cross by Callum Connolly.
County responded with a lovely 20-yard curling effort from Grant that just cleared the crossbar and then at the other end a similar effort from Harry Charsley drifted narrowly off target.
The Magpies should have wrapped things up in the 75th minute but the experienced Nicky Hunt fired over from a good position inside the area.
There was agony for Everton in the 90th minute when Matthew Foulds floated in one of many excellent crosses that he provided in the second period and Donkor’s header came back off the bar.