Paul Tait lauded his Everton Under-18s’ ruthless mentality following a 5-1 victory at Sunderland that tees up the Blues perfectly for next week’s clash with hitherto invincible Manchester City.
Anthony Gordon gave Everton a flying start to the fixture at the north-east side’s Academy of Light, the prolific attacking midfielder netting twice inside nine minutes.
Striker Manasse Mampala then took over, firing in two quickfire goals shortly before half-time and completing his hat-trick just after the hour mark.
The hosts' Swedish midfielder, Benjamin Mbunga Kimpioka, pounced with five minutes remaining to deny Tait’s team a clean sheet – but the Toffees had long since secured the three points which lifted them a place to third in the Premier League Under-18 North division.
“I was really happy with the players’ mentality and determination to stay on the front foot today,” coach Tait told evertonfc.com.
“We talk a lot about keeping the ball, but we want to retain possession with a purpose and continually try to penetrate – not have the ball just for the sake of it.
“We are always looking to penetrate, be it through a team, round the sides or with clever balls over the top.”
Gordon opened the scoring on two minutes when he picked himself up after being fouled to bend a free-kick past Anthony Patterson.
He added his second – and eighth in seven games this season – after seizing on a defensive lapse to round Sunderland ‘keeper Patterson and slot home.
Kinshasa-born Mampala struck in the 38th and 41st minutes, before converting from close range to complete his hat-trick with 29 minutes to play.
“Manasse was a handful all day,” said Tait. “At the start of the game things weren’t going his way – he was getting caught offside and his touch was not quite there.
“But he stretches teams because he can run in behind – and he is a powerful boy. He suddenly came alive just before half-time and scored two goals – then he had a tap-in for his hat-trick, which made it a really good day for him.”
Tait confessed the one blot on an otherwise gratifying afternoon came in the shape of the late goal his side conceded, which prevented them from recording a first shut-out this term.
Nevertheless, having used the game’s closing stages to trial a different system, he was keen for his players to heed valuable lessons from how that period of the match unfolded.
And Tait is already excitedly anticipating next Saturday’s home encounter with City, when Everton will have the opportunity to close to within one point of the unbeaten table-toppers.
“This sets us up nicely for next week, we have a big game against Manchester City, who have not dropped a point,” continued Tait, whose young Blues have won three and drawn two of their seven league matches this term.
“We talked about Sunderland being the important game, and now we have got the three points we can start planning and preparing for City. The boys are really looking forward to it.
“We used the last 15-20 minutes today to try a different system. We had done bits of work on it but wanted the boys to implement it on the pitch… but they did not quite manage it as well as we would have liked.
“But it was a good point to bring up at the end… that they have to take responsibility and communicate better.
“Trying to achieve consistency is key. They are up and down, so we just have to keep giving them the same message and not get too down or frustrated if things we are trying don't come off, because they are kids and still learning.
“Then if we have a good week, it is important not get too carried away – and just keep working hard and trying to improve."