Francis Jeffers hailed the impact of Fraser Hornby and match-winner Shayne Lavery after the pair stepped off the bench and combined to secure a dramatic comeback victory over Swansea City in the Premier League 2 on Friday night.
Former striker Jeffers was once again in charge of the Under-23s in the absence of regular boss David Unsworth.
The young Blues fell behind in south Wales after Jordon Garrick’s heavily-deflected strike crept in on the hour mark.
But Jeffers was pleased with the “unbelievable character” of his side as Lavery won a penalty within minutes of stepping off the bench, allowing Luke Garbutt to restore parity from 12 yards.
Lavery then notched the winner in stoppage time, controlling a cross from fellow substitute Hornby, before firing into the roof of the net to secure all three points.
“We’d lost three on the bounce - albeit only one in the league - before tonight, so I spoke to the lads before the game, telling them I’d love to come here, play beautiful football and score wonderful goals - but I wasn’t too bothered about that,” Jeffers told evertonfc.com. “Of course, I wanted it, but the most important thing was showing character - and they absolutely showed that.
“We went a goal down and maybe confidence was starting to ebb away but the lads dug in.
“You look at the two substitutes in Fraser Hornby and Shayne Lavery - two of the younger lads in the group - and they’ve stepped up and made an impact. That’s what you have to do - you have to make your mark when you step up into a new age group. I thought they were both brilliant when they came on.
“As a manager, your substitutes are there to make an impact on the game. I don’t think they could have done that more than they did. Your subs don’t always work but I’m happy they did tonight.
“Shayne was on a couple of minutes before he won the penalty and then Fraser crosses the ball for him for the winner. To be honest, we wanted Fraser in the middle at 6ft 3in! But he ended up out wide because the game was a bit stretched after both teams went down to 10 men. It was a great cross and, looking at the touch and finish - it was a proper centre forward’s goal by Shayne.
“He’s had a tough time over pre-season with injuries and he’s taken a little while to get going but we know that’s what he can do. Everyone in the Academy knows that’s what Shayne is - he’s in the box, he’s a goalscorer.”