David Unsworth described Anthony Gordon’s stunning first-half effort against Mansfield Town in the Leasing.com Trophy as "special".
Everton defeated the League Two hosts 4-1 on penalties after an entertaining 1-1 draw at Field Mill on Tuesday night.
Gordon, who netted twice in the Under-23s' 2-2 draw at Arsenal on Friday, skipped past a plethora of Mansfield defenders before steadying himself to curl a wonderful shot from the edge of the box into the top corner of the net.
The quality of the goal was affirmed by the number of suitably impressed home fans who joined in the applause.
“It was a special goal from a special player," said Unsworth.
"Everything we’ve worked so hard with him on over the last 18 months is starting to come together. He’s doing his best work in the final third, he’s passing when he should be passing and beating people when he should be beating them, and now he’s got an end product to his game.
"His movement, his pace, his ability on the ball is there for all to see, and there’s more to come.”
Having seen Everton's Under-23s draw each of their opening three league fixtures this term, Unsworth was delighted with the performance his side produced against Mansfield's more experienced outfit.
“That’s the best we’ve played this season,” said Unsworth. “It’s nice to get a decent performance under our belt.
"It’s a good night’s football. On nights like tonight you look at the desire from them and they were desperate to win. The personnel may change but the desire to wear the shirt and win the game is always there. It was a really great performance.”
Gordon’s intelligent running and excellent close control when in possession was a feature of the first half and he probably should have scored earlier on when he failed to get sufficient purchase on a close-range shot that Aidan Stone saved more comfortably than he would have expected.
Harry Charsley tested the keeper rather better after being played in by Gordon midway through the half.
Mansfield weren’t without chances of their own in the opening period. Omari Sterling-James was particularly unfortunate. He found the side netting from distance, hit the post with a direct free-kick and forced Harry Tyrer into a fine save with a close-range flick.
On the stroke of half-time, Everton almost doubled their advantage when Antony Evans’ free-kick from fully 30-yards flashed past Stone but struck the post.
Gordon started the second half well, too, when he saw an effort palmed away by Stone after a superb period of passing football from Unsworth's side.
Everton's task was then made tougher when Beni Baningime was sent-off after picking up a second yellow card on 69 minutes.
“I thought his first yellow was wrong,” claimed Unsworth. “His first one was a great tackle and he won the ball. No complaints with the second yellow, but the first one wasn’t.”
The young Blues defended magnificently until the 87th minute when the home dangerman Sterling-James finally got his goal, shooting from 10-yards out and finding the bottom corner.
It was cruel on brave Everton but the youngsters kept their cool in the shootout, with Evans, Matthew Foulds, Charsley and Nathan Markelo all finding the net. Tyrer made a fine save to deny Otis Khan and Sterling-James fired wildly over to give Everton a 4-1 success.
“How good were the penalties,” remarked Unsworth. “All credit to the players and a word for Harry Tyrer, who made a great save in the shootout and did well in the game.”