Chester 2-4 Everton Under-23s
David Unsworth said he saw “really encouraging signs” as Everton Under-23s hit four second-half goals for the second time in eight days to defeat Chester.
Like during last weekend’s 4-1 victory at Stockport County, the young Blues trailed 1-0 at half-time but responded with a clinical and classy display after the break as their superior fitness told.
Unsworth had revealed how his players had been put through their most gruelling week of pre-season yet
ahead of the trip to the Deva Stadium, and his side struggled to get a foothold in the game in the opening 45 minutes as they battled both a full-strength host outfit and swirling Cheshire winds.
However, Nathan Broadhead capitalised on a smart leave from Fraser Hornby to cancel out Anthony Dudley’s opener soon after the restart - and sparked a frantic spell of four goals in 11 minutes that would end with Everton 3-2 ahead.
Next, substitute Harry Charsley made the most of an error from goalkeeper Grant Shenton to slot Unsworth’s side in front, only for Jon Moran to level for Chester when John Pritchard’s free-kick came back off the crossbar.
Steve Howson’s hashed clearance allowed Bassala Sambou to immediately restore the Blues’ lead before making way for Shayne Lavery, the Northern Irish striker then adding the Toffees’ fourth with a calm finish nine minutes from time.
“I have to give great credit to all the players today,” Unsworth told evertonfc.com.
“They’ve had a massive loading this week, there’s been huge, huge distances covered and high intensity work and to perform the way they did in the second half just shows what a fit group of players they are.
“We didn’t perform in the first half, like we didn’t last week, but second half we were us and that’s the message that we need to get across - we need to play for 90 minutes.
“But when we did play, we played some great football, scored some great goals and we saw the quality.
“There’s still loads of work to do but there were some really encouraging signs second half.”
Unsworth had warned his charges to expect a battle in their penultimate pre-season fixture before launching into Premier League 2 action at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge on August 12.
For the hosts it was a final chance to prepare and polish ahead of next Saturday’s National League North opener against Spennymoor Town after a summer of change which has seen former Salford City management duo Bernard Morley and Anthony Johnson take charge of the relegated Seals.
The duo have wasted little time in stamping their mark since replacing the sacked Marcus Bignot, reflected in a starting XI that comprised only two survivors from last season, eight new signings and a trialist.
And it was one of the recent arrivals, Dudley, who stabbed in from six-yards out after a defensive mix-up to put his new side ahead on 34 minutes.
A blocked shot from midfielder Antony Evans was the closest Everton came to restoring parity before the break, but they emerged from the dressing room reinvigorated and always looked likely winners once Broadhead had powered home his third goal in two games.
Indeed, the margin of victory may have been greater had Hornby’s whipped free-kick not cannoned off a post and the same player steered over when teed up by the impressive Charsley.
“I thought Harry Charsley was the catalyst to get us playing because he’s a front-foot player,” said Unsworth. “He’s had a lot of minutes and a lot of training, so we only wanted to give him half a game and that’s why he came on at half-time.
“We needed him to spark us off and he certainly did that.
“We got the first goal through Nathan [Broadhead] and you could just see the difference. It was like everybody was relieved and then we started playing, doing everything we see in training and impressing. The second half was terrific.
“We’ve got one more pre-season friendly against Manchester United next week, so we’ll look forward to that now and we’ll tweak the team, freshen the lads up and make sure they’re rested properly.
“But that game today has come on the back of a massive week for them, so I’m very pleased with the way they’ve worked this week and then finished it off in style.”
Everton: Renshaw (Hansen 46), Denny, Galloway, Ouzounidis (Foulds 46), Browning, Adeniran (Bramall 83), Markelo, Evans (Charsley 46), Broadhead (Mampala 81), Hornby (Gordon 76), Sambou (Lavery 66).
Goals: Broadhead 55, Charsley 61, Sambou 65, Lavery 81
Chester: Shenton, Livesey (Moran 54), Pritchard, Roberts (Mooney 70), Grand, Howson, Smalley, Stopforth, Dudley, Trialist A, Mahon.
Goals: Dudley 34, Moran 64