David Unsworth says his Premier League 2 champions Everton Under-23s must get used to being a “scalp” for other teams after a 1-0 defeat by Leicester at Southport.
The young Blues were beaten by Josh Knight’s 36th-minute set-piece header, a goal Unsworth blamed on his side “switching off”.
And although he believes his players’ efforts merited a point from their encounter with the Foxes, the manager insists there is vast room for improvement following a tough first week of the season.
Everton drew their league opener at West Ham last Friday and were beaten 2-1 at Notts County in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday.
“I am disappointed to lose,” Unsworth told evertontv. “But for large periods we controlled the game and had opportunities.
“We switched off from a set-piece; somebody was not doing their job, which we spoke about – and which is really disappointing.
“The effort and spirit was there. A draw probably would have been a fair result.
“But they have to learn and learn fast. Last year has gone. Nobody is owed anything because of last year. We have to get back to doing what we do best.”
Everton improved significantly in the second 45 minutes, without being able to break through Leicester’s courageous, meticulously-drilled defensive unit.
Nevertheless, the introduction of Jose Baxter and Gethin Jones shortly after the interval injected more purpose and drive into the Blues’ performance, with Baxter, in particular, central to much of his team’s good work.
“We wanted to give the lads who had played the first half another opportunity,” said Unsworth. “We were going to make changes, but we altered the formation a bit, which helped.
“Then we made a couple of subs after 10 minutes, which made us better.
“Jose Baxter came on and was fantastic. He showed a real spirit and love of the game, which was infectious. We just could not create that scoring opportunity.
“Leicester were very, very good. They made blocks and great headers, so fair play to them. They camped in for the second half.
“But it is something we have to get used to. We are a scalp now. Everybody wants to come and beat the champions.
“I have said to the players, ‘last year means nothing’.
“The players’ attitude is a given for me. Their attitude and the way they work, you should not have to ask for that – this is Everton we are playing for.
“Their attitude was fine and always has been with this group of players.
“One or two are not performing as well as they did last year, and they have been told in no uncertain terms that they have to get back to doing what they do best.”