David Unsworth admitted Everton Under-23s “made it difficult at times” but praised his team’s creativity after they beat Fulham 4-2 in an entertaining Premier League Cup clash at Southport FC on Friday night.
Dennis Adeniran struck twice as the Toffees secured a victory which takes them top of qualification Group B, one point ahead of Fulham.
Everton went ahead early on when Fulham’s Zico Asare scored an own goal, but the away side responded almost instantly through Timmy Abraham.
Adeniran then struck either side of half-time to put the young Blues 3-1 ahead.
Martell Taylor-Crossdale’s 72nd-minute penalty set up a grandstand finish but Manasse Mampala’s stoppage-time strike sealed victory for Everton.
“We made it difficult for ourselves at times, but we got the win,” said Unsworth.
“We created so many opportunities but we’re giving away sloppy goals which gives teams the chance to get back into the game.
“We continued to play the right way, though, and we carved the opposition open time and time again.
“Throughout the spine we were quite solid and we were convincing winners.”
The Blues almost took the lead in the eighth minute. Ellis Simms ran onto a flick from Antony Evans and clipped the ball over the keeper only for an unbelievable goal-line clearance from Connor McAvoy to deny him.
Everton opened the scoring two minutes later when Kyle John crossed from the right and Fulham defender Asare inadvertently headed the ball into his own net.
The lead lasted just three minutes. A long pass forward found Taylor-Crossdale and when he was challenged by Con Ouzounidis, the loose ball fell to the feet of Timmy Abraham - brother of Chelsea striker Tammy - and he planted it past Joao Virginia.
Everton were the better team in the first half and a lovely move on 38 minutes almost led to a goal.
Beni Baningime fed the ball to Adeniran and his clever reverse pass played in John down the right. John's cross was cleared to the feet of Evans ,who lashed the ball over the bar.
The second goal was not long coming, though. Evans did very well to dispossess Ryan De Havilland in the 41st minute and he crossed low for Adeniran to slam the ball home.
Evans then smacked the post with a lovely free-kick in first-half stoppage time.
Six minutes into the second period, Everton increased their advantage and it was Adeniran again.
He intercepted a sloppy Fulham pass and powered down the right before planting a sweet finish into the corner of the net.
Adeniran was enjoying himself against his former club. A lovely forward ball from Feeney found Simms and he pulled the ball back for Adeniran, but the two-goal man was off balance and pulled his shot wide.
There was a remarkable piece of play on 70 minutes. Evans collected a forward pass but his first shot hit the right-hand post and his follow-up effort struck the opposite post.
“Antony played very well tonight,” said Unsworth.
“He showed his quality on a very difficult pitch. The fact that we passed the ball well tonight is great credit to the lads.”
Fulham reduced the arrears in the 72nd minute when Taylor-Crossdale converted from the spot.
Shortly after, the woodwork was struck again, this time by Fulham’s Ryan De Havilland.
Everton wrapped up the victory in stoppage time when substitute Manasse Mampala forced the ball home from eight yards.
The game provided 17-year-old centre-back Jarrad Branthwaite with his Everton debut after he joined the Blues from Carlisle United earlier this week.
“He did okay and there’s lots to work with,” said Unsworth.
“He’s a young kid and anybody playing alongside Morgan [Feeney] will be fine because I thought he was terrific tonight - a typical captain’s performance."