Francis Jeffers praised the character Everton’s Under-21s showed against Lincoln City on Tuesday but admitted they ultimately left themselves with too much to do against the experienced League Two outfit.
Jeffers took temporary charge for the game at Sincil Bank but saw his young Blues fall behind to two Jordan Maguire-Drew efforts in the opening 23 minutes
Everton rallied after the break and created a raft of chances before Dennis Adeniran grabbed his first Toffees goal to half the deficit with nine minutes to go.
But despite a late charge, Jeffers’ side were unable to find the equaliser their second-half efforts deserved.
“We got caught cold,” the former striker told evertonfc.com. “When you come to places like this you have to stand up and be counted. It’s an uphill battle being two down after 23 minutes, but we stuck in there, dug in and the lads showed great character and, in the second half, we had enough chances to win two games.
“Too many times we got in there and missed the target and obviously near the end we just ran out of time.
“I felt it was coming but the lads will learn from that. It was a proper game of football. You can play the Manchester Citys and all the Under-23 teams but the likes of Morgan Feeney, Matty Foulds, Nathangelo Markelo, Dennis Adeniran, people like that, they will learn a lot from games like tonight.
“I knew looking at Lincoln they were an experienced team, but I knew we could play, be braver on the ball and play our way through.
“Second half we did that, but it’s one of them. You’ve got to take your chances.”
Jeffers learned he would be taking charge of the side late on Monday, alongside Head of Academy Coaching Sean Lundon.
The Academy graduate, who netted 22 goals in 82 appearances for the Toffees, had been working with the group as a striker-specific coach but enjoyed his first experience of stepping into the hotseat.
“I found out yesterday (Monday),” he said. “Obviously there was a lot going on and Unsy was short and sweet and said, 'Look, I won't be going down to Lincoln, or John Ebbrell', so I took the team.”
Despite conceding twice in Lincolnshire, Jeffers was particularly impressed by the performance of centre-back Morgan Feeney and the way the 18-year-old dealt with the Imps’ physical approach.
Feeney and the young Blues next face Swansea City in Premier League 2 on Friday night.
“Morgan Feeney is different class and he was great again tonight,” added Jeffers. “He's played against a lad there who was 6'5 and everything's been going to his head and Morgan's had to dig in, battle with him and be brave. He was quality.”