David Unsworth said he had “no complaints about the result” after Everton Under-23s were beaten 3-1 by Tottenham Hotspur in a Premier League 2 clash at Southport FC on Friday night.
Dennis Adeniran struck a superb late goal as the young Blues poured forward in a frentic finish to the game, but Spurs held out to secure maximum points.
The away side had established a two-goal lead by half-time, with Dilan Markanday and Armando Shashoua on the scoresheet.
Shashoua was on target again shortly after the break to extend Tottenham’s advantage.
Everton were much-improved in the final 25 minutes of the match, carving out several chances, but only had Adeniran’s 84th-minute strike to show for their efforts.
Manager Unsworth admitted his frustration his team could not produce such quality and intensity throughout the game.
“Tottenham were very good and deserved to win,” Unsworth said.
“Even though we got a goal back and we huffed and puffed for the final half an hour – I can’t have any complaints with the result.
“We only started playing when Antony Evans got clattered on the halfway line. All of a sudden, we got angry, we started to play on the front foot and started to play the way our teams play.
“Even at 3-1, we’ve created three or four chances. We felt we could get something out of the game because we kept going and going – and that’s credit to the lads.
“But, overall, we underperformed and that’s a disappointment.”
Everton started the game well and could have been in front on two minutes.
Sixteen-year-old midfielder Tyler Onyango rapped a pass into the feet of Harry Charsley, who beat his man before crossing for Ellis Simms.
The ball bounced kindly for the striker near the penalty spot but he fired his effort over the bar.
Then, in the blink of an eye, the away side took the lead. Spurs winger Shilow Tracey made tracks down the left flank before lashing at goal. Harry Tyrer parried his shot, but Markanday was there to tuck in the rebound.
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HIGHLIGHTS: UNDER-23S BEATEN DESPITE SUPERB ADENIRAN GOAL
Athletic midfielder Adeniran came to the fore as Everton pressed for an equaliser. On 14 minutes, he offered a thrilling glimpse of his range of qualities, blazing clear down the wing – leaving two Tottenham defenders in his wake - before showing impressing composure to fizz in a teasing low delivery.
Unfortunately, his ball evaded the advancing Everton attackers, who would have been left with a tap-in.
Everton continued to press but the away team struck the next blow. Tasham Oakley-Boothe cut the ball back for Shashoua, who found the bottom corner with a precise finish.
Tottenham extended their advantage when Shashoua slotted home from close range nine minutes after the break.
There was no question of Everton throwing in the towel, however, and after bursting clear down the right channel, Simms forced a splendid save from Spurs keeper Josh Oluwayemi.
The Blues finally made the breakthrough when the impressive Adeniran dribbled forward at speed before rifling a shot inside the near post.
The goal sparked a late flurry of Everton pressure and Oluwayemi made an acrobatic stop from Nathangelo Markelo’s powerful 20-yard effort.
The Tottenham keeper then made a point-blank save from Simms’ header as Spurs held on.
Everton boss Unsworth was without commanding defensive duo Morgan Feeney and Lewis Gibson, as well as combative midfielder Beni Baningime and electric forward Anthony Gordon for the game.
He conceded their absences were felt but is confident the young talents in his team will improve as the season progresses.
“We have a lot of new players coming into the group, who are learning as they play,” he said.
“It’s tough at the moment but the boys will learn, they will get better.”