David Unsworth couldn’t mask his disappointment after his Everton Under-21s side started their Checkatrade Trophy campaign with a 2-1 defeat at Notts County on Tuesday night.
The young Blues conceded two first-half goals in quick succession and that gave them just too much to do to take something from the game, despite Anton Donkor’s second-half strike.
“They were poor goals from our point of view,” said boss Unsworth. “We let the striker use his body and turn us and we’d spoken about the importance of defending set pieces in this competition. It’s a real threat for League One and Two clubs because they’re bigger, taller and stronger than us. Set pieces in this competition are always going to be a threat.”
Unsworth shuffled his pack at the break, bringing on Donkor and Antony Evans to try to give his team a bit more firepower, and he also introduced summer signing Lewis Gibson as the second half progressed.
“I thought the lads who came on did well,” he added. “Donkor and Gibson were terrific and Antony worked his socks off. There’s a bit to work with from the second-half performance but I said to the players after the game that in this competition we just cannot give teams a two-goal lead. We could have nicked a draw at the end but it probably wouldn’t have been a fair reflection.”
Despite his frustration at the manner of the defeat, Unsworth still took positives from the night, feeling his young players will benefit from playing against experienced opposition.
“It’s a competition that I really like and that’s why we enter it because of nights like tonight. The lads have played against Alan Smith, who played for England, Jonathan Forte, who’s been scoring at this level for a long time, and Nicky Hunt, who played in the Premier League. I thought Notts County were good and I said to (manager) Kevin (Nolan) at the end that he’s got a good team.”
Everton’s extra threat in the second half owed much to the delivery from the left-hand side of the pitch from Matthew Foulds, who provided the cross for Donkor to head the ball onto the crossbar in the last minute.
“He’s got great delivery,” said Unsworth. “We played him on the left of three centre-backs in the first-half and I had to change it around to get an extra striker on and he went to left-back. He defended really well and his crossing from set-pieces with his left-foot is a weapon we can use moving forward.”