David Unsworth described Ellis Simms as "superb" after the striker scored a second 90th-minute winner in as many matches as Everton Under-23s beat Watford 1-0 in a Premier League Cup clash on Friday night.
With time ebbing away at St Albans FC, debutant Liam Higgins fed Simms on the right and he produced a precise finish for his 12th goal of the season.
Everton had already qualified for the Premier League Cup knockout stages prior to the match but the result means the young Blues have now won their past three matches in all competitions.
“I’m not even going to talk about Ellis's goal, I am going to talk about his performance,” said Unsworth.
“He was absolutely superb. His hold-up play, his threat, his power and his link-up play were exceptional.
“The stuff we’ve worked with him on since pre-season, he is now bringing into this game and I am so proud of him. When you apply yourself the way that Ellis has you reap the rewards.
“It was nice for Liam to get an assist. He’s come into the group and trained with us and I’ve liked him straight away.
"He’s hungry. I asked him if he wanted to come on and he said ‘yes’ and I asked if he could play right midfield and he said ‘yes’. I don’t know if he ever has [played there before] but he was terrific and it was a great pass for the goal.”
Prior to that moment of quality, the game appeared to be heading for a goalless draw.
Tyler Onyango was denied early on by Daniel Bachmann in the Watford goal – the keeper diving bravely to stop the young midfielder’s effort after an excellent free-kick delivery from Rhys Hughes.
Hughes wasn’t too far away himself on 38 minutes when he created some space on the edge of the box and curled his shot just wide.
The same player could have scored a couple of minutes after the break but he didn’t strike his close-range effort cleanly enough and it was comfortably saved by Bachmann.
On 74 minutes, Manasse Mampala skipped past a couple of challenges only to see his final effort smothered by the keeper.
At the other end, Blues keeper Harry Tyrer was a relative spectator. Watford did have efforts on goal they were off target for the most part.
Venezuelan striker Adaberto Penaranda drilled a low shot into the side netting midway through the second half but by and large the Blues rearguard was untroubled.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the young players tonight,” said Unsworth.
“We made some changes and gave some young players an opportunity and they didn’t let us down. Watford had an experienced side for this level of football, so that shows you how well we performed.”