A frustrated David Unsworth declared Everton Under-23s' goalless draw with Leicester City at Southport’s Pure Stadium as "two points lost".
The defending champions could not break down their 10-man opponents despite having the lion’s share of the possession in their Premier League 2 opener on Monday night.
“It was a poor, sluggish performance and nowhere near the quality we’ve come to expect and demand,” said boss Unsworth. “With the team we had out, the performance, particularly in the first half, was really poor. I didn’t see tonight what I see in training every day and you can make the excuse that it’s the first game of the season but that wasn’t good enough.
“We changed it at half-time to get us passing the ball and that got us going but we need to sharpen up if we want to win games at this level.”
The visitors, in their bright pink away kit, put some rather robust challenges in during the opening exchanges and Calvin Ughelumba, in particular, was lucky to avoid a caution following two quick-succession heavy challenges on debutant goalkeeper Harry Tyrer and Anthony Gordon.
Everton had the better of the chances in the opening period.
Antony Evans saw his volley safely smothered by Tobias Johansson and then the Foxes keeper did really well to turn away an effort from Dennis Adeniran.
At the start of the second half, Lewis Gibson picked the ball up on the edge of the Blues box and carried it 70 yards before shooting wide.
On 55 minutes, Leicester were reduced to 10 men when Darnell Johnson was shown a straight red card for a pull-back on Fraser Hornby. It was a brave decision by the referee because although technically Johnson was the last man, Hornby was on the edge of the centre circle when he was impeded.
Everton immediately assumed the ascendency.
Gordon glanced a header narrowly wide, Beni Baningime fired over from 20 yards and Kyle John shot straight at Johansson when a splendid cross from Matthew Foulds picked him out at the far post.
Gordon then curled a fine shot inches wide and Hornby forced a smart save from Johansson with a similar effort.
It was all Everton but the visitors hung on for a point that looked unlikely when they were reduced to 10 with most of the second half still to play.