Harry Charsley admits he was “desperate” to get off the mark before notching his first goal of the season to help Everton Under-23s to an impressive 1-0 away win over Derby County.
A young Toffees side had to work hard for the win against a far more experienced home team, who included no less than seven players with first-team experience in their starting line-up on Monday night.
David Unsworth’s side moved the ball well in the opening period, with Dennis Adeniran particularly eye-catching in midfield with his strong running and accurate distribution.
The Rams defence was marshalled by Jason Shackell, who has played nearly 500 games in the top two divisions of the English game, including a spell alongside Michael Keane at Burnley in the Premier League, and for all their possession Everton were restricted to long-range efforts during the early exchanges.
The crucial moment of the game came on 29 minutes, when Charsley found space in the penalty area before sliding home a typically neat finish.
And the Wirral-born midfielder, who scooped the Academy Goal of the Season Award in 2015/16 before finishing joint-leading goalscorer for Unsworth’s Premier League 2 title-winners 12 months later, hopes it is the start of another fruitful campaign.
“It was a really good win for us,” Charsley told evertonfc.com. “We stuck at it for 90 minutes, played as a team and managed to get the three points.
“There was probably a bit of luck involved for my goal. I kept running, it fell nicely and I saw the goalkeeper go for the cross so I managed to put it near post. I was really pleased.
“I’ve been desperate for a goal and hopefully I can go on a run in the coming games now.
“I think I showed last year I like to score goals but I know I need to show that again this season.”
The victory over the Rams was the Under-23s’ third on the bounce, following previous triumphs over Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.
It was a busy summer, with Boris Mathis, Josh Bowler, Anton Donkor, Dennis Adeniran, Nathangelo Markelo and Lewis Gibson all added to Unsworth’s ranks, while eight players headed out on loan spells in the Championship.
And, after a “slow” start by last season’s standards, Unsworth has been somewhat surprised at the speed in which his new-look group has got going.
“It was a proper Everton win,” the Under-23s coach added. “We played some great stuff in the first half and should have killed off the game off. In the second half, the lads dug in so much and I’m very proud of their effort and commitment.
“You could see at the end, when we had to defend corners and free-kicks, they were throwing their bodies on the line and to see that sort of spirit and determination to keeping a clean sheet is a delight to watch as a coach.
“They really wanted it. The new players have come in and looked to the other lads in the group - they see the spirit, they feel the spirit and they want to be part of it. We had a slow start to the season but we’ve had some choice words and some really tough training sessions where the new lads have had chance to get up to speed. Time waits for no man, especially at this football club.
“We’ve tried to get everyone up to speed as quickly as we can. We’ve talked to them every day, shown them the demands and the tempo we need to play at. That was there for all to see.
“We expect to win every game. We also knew that from the start of the season to Christmas there might be a little bit of inconsistency, but the lads have got up to speed, probably quicker than [assistant] John [Ebbrell] or I thought they would. It’s all down to them.”