Fraser Hornby says Everton Under-23s are determined to hit back from their defeat at Sunderland when they travel to face Brighton & Hove Albion Under-23s in the Premier League Cup on Saturday (1pm).
David Unsworth’s men were edged out 2-1 by the Black Cats on Sunday in Premier League 2. Despite bossing the game for large periods and creating a host of chances, the young Blues had only David Henen’s 82-minute strike to show for their efforts.
Hornby says the squad are intent on responding in the best possible way – by winning at Albion and booking a spot in the last eight of the cup.
“We dominated the ball from start to finish [against Sunderland],” said the skilful 18-year-old forward. “We conceded two goals that could’ve been prevented and we just didn’t take our chances which cost us the game.
“It’s good we’ve got the game against Brighton so close. It gives us a chance to bounce back, the lads are well prepared and want to make amends for the defeat. Also, it’s a cup game and we want to progress and go on to win the competition.”
With the Under-23s light on numbers through injury and illness on Sunday – and with Beni Baningime named on the bench for the first team's 2-0 win over Brighton the previous day – Hornby was asked to play in an unfamiliar central midfield role against the Black Cats.
Usually deployed as a striker, the Scotland Under-19 youth international acquitted himself well in the middle of the park. Playing alongside Alex Denny, the pair helped the Blues control the tempo at the Stadium of Light.
“I haven’t played there in over a year,” added Hornby, who stepped up to the Under-23s this season and made his first-team debut when he was named in the starting XI for Everton's 3-0 Europa League win over Apollon Limassol in December. "Because we were short on numbers Unsy asked if I could play central midfield. It was great for me that he showed that faith and trusted me in there.
“I wanted to help the team out and try to score but playing in midfield I probably got more of the ball than I usually would. It was a different game for me but I thought I did alright.”
Another player who impressed against Sunderland was 16-year-old centre-back Ryan Astley, who was making his debut for the Under-23s.
Unsworth described the Welshman’s performance as “stunning” and Hornby was equally impressed.
“He was incredible,” said Hornby. “He’s been training with us quite a bit and playing for the Under-18s regularly and you can see for a young lad he’s very composed. He’s got a very wise head on him. But first and foremost he’s a very good defender – I think he’s got a great future ahead of him.”
After the clash against Brighton on Saturday, Hornby’s attention will turn to the international stage having been called up to the Scotland Under-19 squad for their triple-header of UEFA Under-19 Championship qualifying clashes in Germany.
Scotland have been drawn in a group with the host nation, the Netherlands and Norway, with the group winners qualifying for this summer’s finals in Finland.
Hornby’s relishing the chance to test himself against some of the best players in his age group in the continent. This includes one of this Everton teammates, Nathangelo Markelo, who has been named in the Netherlands squad.
“It’ll be nice to play against him – a bit of friendly rivalry!” Hornby said. “But I think we’re a tough team to beat and if we perform well I don’t see why we can’t beat teams like that. We’ll give it everything we can and hopefully we can qualify."