Everton Under-23s remain on course to defend the Premier League Cup after moving into the last eight of the competition with a 2-1 victory over Reading in Southport.
First-half goals from Ellis Simms and Dennis Adeniran proved enough for David Unsworth's team at Pure Stadium as they look to remain the trophy they lifted last season with victory over Newcastle United at Goodison.
Unsworth said: "If we are in a tournament, we want to win it. It's a great feeling for young players to play in finals and helps accelerate their development by winning.
"It was a good display on a tough surface. We were comfortable throughout the game. I don't think the result was in any doubt and I'm delighted for the boys.”
Everton looked strong from the start and the in-form Simms added to his impressive tally for the season with a near-post header from a Matty Foulds corner within six minutes.
Adeniran added a second when he flicked the ball past the oncoming Jökull Andersson after good play down the left-hand side from Einar Iversen, a player Unsworth believes has “all the attributes of a top modern player” and hopes he can push for first-time football soon.
Reading struggled to gain any momentum going forward and managed their first chance on the half-hour mark, a left-footed strike from Claudio Osario which sailed over the bar.
The disciplined Everton side managed the game well and were direct in possession, using Simms to hold the ball up well in order to counter.
The young Blues had chances in the second half with Kyle John’s early chance just clearing the bar, and Nathangelo Markelo’s long-range effort easily caught by Reading keeper Andersson.
Reading threatened after Augustus McGiff’s cross was volleyed from close range by Femi Azeez who thought he had scored before a mixture of Jarrad Branthwaite and Harry Tyrer managed to clear the ball off the line.
Keeper Tyrer was called into action on 70 minutes with a smart save to deny McGiff from getting his side back into the game.
Second-half substitute Manasse Mampala looked to have wrapped the game up with 10 minutes to go but failed to hit the target from close range.
Lewis Dobbin and John then both had chances to finish the game off inside the final five minutes, and Reading grabbed a lifeline through McGiff's late effort - but the Blues held on to make the quarter-final.