Everton Under-23s boss David Unsworth declared himself “delighted” with his side’s “application, team shape and effort” after they drew 0-0 at Manchester United in their final warm-up game ahead of the new season.
The young Blues kick off their Premier League 2 campaign against Chelsea next Sunday and Unsworth insists he could not have asked for more from his players during a demanding pre-season programme.
The game at United’s former first-team training ground at The Cliff was a friendly in name only, with both sides fiercely competitive throughout the 90 minutes.
After an even first half– in which a blocked effort from Reds winger Josh Bohui was the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock - Everton took control in the second period.
Matty Foulds came within inches of given the young Blues the lead just after the hour mark, heading agonisingly wide from Nathan Broadhead’s fizzing, whipped free-kick delivery.
Harry Charsley was next to threaten, firing just over after excellent link-up play from Bassala Sambou.
The closest the Toffees came to grabbing a winner came 14 minutes from time, however, when Antony Evans was played in by Shayne Lavery and forced a terrific, full-stretch stop from United 'keeper Matej Kovar low down to his right-hand side.
While Unsworth’s side were not able to get the goal their second-half performance merited, the boss said the test provided by United rounded off an “outstanding” pre-season.
“It was a really good exercise for us out there,” he told evertonfc.com
. “The conditions were tough. It was hot, sticky and humid. But I was delighted with our players’ application, our shape and our effort throughout the 90 minutes.
“United are a very possession-based team, which posed us different questions than a few of our other pre-season matches have. It was a different type of game and a good test.
“We started the game with a 4-4-2 but tweaked the formation in the second half – bringing another man in central midfield – and it worked straight away. Harry [Charsley] and Dennis [Adeniran] came on and they were terrific.
“It worked a lot better for us and I can’t remember them having a shot in the second half.
“The application and desire to work hard throughout the whole pre-season has been outstanding. I’m proud of the players.”
Unsworth believes his squad boasts the quality and depth to have a successful season. He is champing at the bit for the young Blues’ return to competitive action next week, with his side set to open their Premier League 2 campaign against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
“We’ve got players like Shayne Lavery and Anthony Gordon who can come on and change the game for us - lads who are desperate to come into the team,” he explained. “We know we have got reinforcements to come off the bench.
“We’ve got a week now to go to fine tune before our first game. It’s a great carrot for the players to play at Stamford Bridge against what I expect to be a really strong Chelsea team. But we’re not bad ourselves. When we’re at our best we will give anybody a game. We’re really looking forward to it.”
Everton team: Hilton, Denny, Browning, Foulds, Galloway, Evans, Markelo (Gordon 60’), Williams (Adeniran 45’), Broadhead, Sambou (Lavery 75’), Hornby (Charsley 45’)