Everton Under-18s assistant boss Keith Southern said the young Blues’ performance in their 2-1 win over reigning national champions Derby County on Saturday blended “quality, effort and resilience".
The Toffees, who finished third in the U18 Premier League (North) table last season, began their campaign with an impressive victory at USM Finch Farm.
A clinical left-footed finish from Lewis Warrington and a towering header from Reece Welch gave Everton a 2-0 lead at half-time, before Derby’s Jayden Charles halved the deficit just after the hour-mark.
A dangerous Rams side exerted pressure as they attempted to level the scores but Everton – who continued to carry a threat on the counter-attack – held out to secure a hard-earned three points.
"The lads did everything we worked on in training and everything we asked of them,” Southern told evertonfc.com.
“It was a very good performance in tough conditions. The wind and the rain was really challenging.
"We played some really good football and scored two good goals to be ahead at half-time. It was a different type of challenge in the second half. Derby had the wind behind them, and we had to show some character and resilience.
“We had our backs to the wall at times, but the lads came through it and could have scored a third. I was really pleased with the effort and quality we showed.”
Southern believes the character the players showed to see out the game pointed to the strong team spirit generated during pre-season.
He is confident the young Blues, who combined their impressive league form in 2018/19 with a run to the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup, are well-positioned to embark on another successful campaign.
“The win was nice but the most pleasing thing was the performance,” he said.
"The lads played through the pitch and handled the ball very well. We had some exciting moments in the game because we’ve got some really good players at the top end of the pitch.
“We’ve had a good but challenging pre-season. We’ve really tested the boys. We’ve played Chelsea and Olympiakos, as well as local sides like Blackpool and Burnley.
“We’ve had them away at a training camp in Slovenia, too, which was took them out of their comfort zone and was great for training and team bonding.
“I think that served us well because, when we came under pressure on Saturday, the lads stuck together. We showed really good character and came through it.
"It was a very good start for us against a good Derby side. It’s only a start, though, and there are a lot of challenges ahead.”
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