Everton Under-23s boss David Unsworth praised his side for finishing the season on "a real positive” after they fought out a 2-2 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford.
In an entertaining clash, the Blues went ahead through Matty Foulds’ close-range effort before United hit back through Dutch youth international Tahith Chong.
The sides went in at the break deadlocked at 1-1 but Luke Garbutt put the Young Blues back in front almost instantly after the restart, firing past United goalkeeper Matej Kovar from the edge of the box.
The Toffees pressed for a third but it was United who were to have the final say – centre-back Devante Redmond slamming the ball home on 73 minutes to snatch a point for the Reds.
Young Blues boss Unsworth tweaked his system for the clash – the Blues played a 3-4-3 formation with Josh Bowler and Nathan Broadhead supporting central striker Bassala Sambou. Unsworth said his players adapted to the switch admirably.
“We tried a different style and I thought the players did really well,” he said. “With the players we had available, we thought that was the best system to go with and I was very happy with it.
“We wanted to get Nathan and Josh in really good, advanced positions. We had Nathangelo Markelo in midfield again alongside Alex Denny and that worked well, too.
“I’m very happy with the performance. It was nice to finish the season on a real positive.”
Unsworth was also delighted with how his players rose to the occasion at Old Trafford.
“They performed on a big stage,” he said. “The pitch was absolutely perfect – you would have thought it was the first day of pre-season, not the last day of the season. It was like a carpet.
“If you didn’t enjoy that tonight, you shouldn’t be in the game. I thought the lads rose to it – they played some really good stuff.”
The result leaves the Blues in sixth place in the Premier League 2 table, although some teams are yet to play their final game.
Unsworth believes his young players have gained vital experience this season – and is confident they’ll be even stronger for the 2018/19 campaign.
“We’re a very young team,” he said. “A lot of players have gone out on loan and got valuable first-team experience.
“Then you see the success of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Jonjoe Kenny, Tom Davies and Beni Baningime now, too, in our first-team squad, which is magnificent.
“Those lads going either going out on loan to get experience, or playing in our first-team, has given the opportunity for the younger players to play in the Under-23s and that will make them even better for next year.
“We’ll assess things as staff, hopefully recruit one or two, and get the likes of Morgan Feeney, Antony Evans and Dennis Adeniran back fit again. We’ll be back as a really strong group again next year.”