David Unsworth said Everton Under-23s’ behind-closed-doors training game against League Two outfit Morecambe on Saturday provided an important physical test for his young players.
The Toffees were beaten 3-1 in a keenly-contested match at USM Finch Farm.
Substitute Manasse Mampala got Everton's goal, heading into the top corner 10 minutes from time after a slick move involving Bobby Carroll and Antony Evans.
By this stage, Morecambe had already netted three times, however.
Jordan Cranston put the Shrimps ahead from the penalty spot midway through the first half, before adding a second just before the hour mark when his cross took a wicked deflection and looped into the net. Rhys Oates then slotted in Morecambe's third on 64 minutes.
The young Blues created chances throughout, with Evans twice forcing excellent saves from Shrimps goalkeeper Mark Halstead and Matty Foulds blasting fractions over the bar.
Several of the Everton players who featured against Morecambe have made the step up to the Under-23s from the Toffees' Under-18s side, and Unsworth believes the experience of competing against vastly more experienced opponents will serve them well.
The young Blues faced another League Two side, Swindon Town, during their La Manga training camp last week and on Tuesday take on Chorley, who won promotion to the National League in 2018-19.
“Our young lads are learning all the time,” Unsworth said.
“It was competitive and a proper game against Morecambe.
“We put the pre-season programme together deliberately to stretch this young group, and at the end of pre-season it will all be worthwhile.
“The players have got to be able to cope with the physicality of this level. Everything has got to be done quicker and with fewer touches.
“That’s exactly why we have these games, to acclimatise these players to the biggest jump in football [from Under-18s to Under-23s football]. It’s a massive step up."
Goalscorer Mampala offered a persistent threat for the Toffees when introduced midway through the second half.
As well getting on the scoresheet with an expertly-taken header, he also showcased his electric pace, quick feet and an eagerness to get behind the Morecambe defence.
Boss Unsworth praised the impact the 19-year-old had on proceedings.
“Manasse came on and showed a level of ability and physicality,” he said.
“He got his goal, which was a good header from what was probably the best move of the game.
“We had countless opportunities but, in both penalty boxes, we were probably second best.”