Everton Under-23s boss David Unsworth felt his side should have capitalised on their “fantastic” first-half performance after sharing a 2-2 draw with Premier League 2 table-toppers Chelsea at Southport.
Two second-half penalties settled a battling contest at Pure Stadium on Friday night as the Blues stayed seventh in the table.
Midfielder Sebastian Quirk opened the scoring in the 36th minute when he tapped home from close range. Chelsea hit back straight after the restart, though, with two quickfire goals – one from the spot – by Tino Anjorin.
The Blues, watched by Director of Football Marcel Brands, kept battling away and were rewarded when Antony Evans made no mistake from the spot after Beni Baningime went over in the box.
“First half, we were absolutely fantastic and should have gone on to win the game,” Unsworth told evertonfc.com.
“We gifted them a goal straight after half-time. It was a schoolboy error from the kick-off and it shouldn’t happen.
“[The goal] burst our bubble and I thought we were flat for that 15 minutes until they got the second.
“We had to come again and we showed great character to get the goal back and we could have won it in the end.”
After a lively start, it was Everton who had the first real chance of the contest. Baningime stole the ball back in the middle of the park and proceeded to drive at a retreating defence, but his shot was easily picked up by the visitors’ goalkeeper.
The hosts did open the scoring in the 32nd minute as Quirk, on his full debut for the Under-23s, calmly placed the ball into an empty net after Nathangelo Markelo’s initial shot was saved.
Unsworth was pleased with the young midfielder’s display.
“I thought he did really well on his full debut for the Under-23s,” Unsworth explained.
“He has been with us in training for about four or five weeks and I thought he was terrific tonight.
“He is a great lad and I am sure we will see a lot more of him in the future.”
The Blues continued to assert their dominance on the match and moments later could have doubled their advantage. The ball looped all the way over to Baningime at the back post as he watched his spectacular effort drift over.
Superb play in the closing stages of the first half from Dennis Adeniran opened up space. His eventual cross agonisingly close to Simms - who was lurking at the back post - but the ball was turned away by the visitors’ defence.
Missed first-half opportunities looked as if they could prove costly for the hosts as Chelsea levelled.
With just seconds on the clock, Lewis Gibson was caught in possession by Anjorin and the Chelsea forward was able to calmly slide the ball past an onrushing Joao Virginia.
Despite the setback, the Blues rallied. Kyle John’s teasing cross was nicked off the head of Simms, before Morgan Feeney failed to direct Anthony Evans’ corner on target.
Chelsea looked much more of a threat in the second half and completed the turnaround in the 63rd-minute. Referee Benjamin Speedie pointed to the spot after Feeney brought down Tariq Uwakwe in the area.
Anjorin was on hand once again to double his and the visitors’ tally.
Everton were not behind for long, though. Speedie pointed to the spot for the second time in the contest when Baningime was brought down in the area. And Evans was clinical from 12 yards as he blasted the ball to the left of an outstretched Ziger.