David Unsworth urged his Everton Under-23 players to “learn very quickly” after they slipped to a 3-1 defeat by Derby County at Goodison Park.
The Toffees patiently chipped away at the Rams after falling behind to Luke Thomas’ ninth-minute goal – and eventually equalised when substitute Shayne Lavery skilfully dispatched a diving header midway through the second half.
Manager Unsworth confessed he “fully expected” his side to go on and claim three valuable Premier League 2 points following Lavery’s leveller.
But it was Derby who summoned the stronger finish, with midfielder Max Bird blasting home on 78 minutes and Lewis Walker sealing victory for the Rams from close range three minutes later.
“The lads did great to get back in the game and from there I fully expected us to go forward and get the winner,” Unsworth told evertontv.
“But we did not defend well for any of Derby’s goals. Tonight is a learning curve, because we were not at our best and did not deserve anything from the game.
“I did not think we played well in any department. Derby were better than us across the pitch. We were not at our best in terms of our pressing and work-rate. We were flat and that was not a typical Everton Under-23 performance.
“It was disappointing but, hopefully, the players will have learned a lot from the game. The players need to learn – but they need to learn quickly.
“Young players will make mistakes and that is alright. But you cannot make the same mistake twice and you have to learn very quickly at this level. And certainly at this Football Club.”
Unsworth reserved praise for goalscorer Lavery, whose exemplary finish came following a clever run to the front post to meet Antony Evans’ right-wing cross.
The Northern Irishman also twice tested excellent Derby goalkeeper Josh Barnes late in the piece without being able to add to his tally.
Lavery’s introduction shortly past the hour mark represented Unsworth’s final change, with Jose Baxter and centre-back Con Ouzounidis introduced into the fray for the second half, as the boss altered his team's shape in a bid to restore parity.
Unsworth was impressed with the accomplished manner in which 18-year-old Ouzounidis coped with the pressure of performing under the Goodison lights.
But he insists a number of his side are still adjusting to the demands of operating on such a grand stage.
“Consistency is key, certainly with young players,” added Unsworth. “You are looking for the better players to perform, certainly here at Goodison.
“It is a pleasure for me to play here. Sometimes our young players freeze under the lights – and it is a big occasion. But it is part of their learning and development that they have to do that.
“Con Ouzounidis did great when he came on and Shayne Lavery looked lively, so there were a couple of pluses from our young players. Their performances were great in the second half, so there is something to build on.
“I think playing at good stadiums lifts good players. And this is a great stadium. I thought Derby were terrific. They have a number of good young players, they were well organised. And they were better than us. Sometimes you have to hold up your hands and say that.
“I told the players that we got what we deserved, which was nothing. We will pick the bones out of the game and show the players what they did well and what they did not do well.”