Everton Under-23s boss David Unsworth revealed he saw many encouraging signs in his team’s performance in their opening pre-season friendly against Southport FC at USM Finch Farm on Saturday.
The young Blues were the more progressive side for much of the clash but a last-minute strike saw the National League North outfit emerge 2-1 victors on a sweltering afternoon at Everton’s training facility.
The Toffees struck first through Ellis Simms’ precision finish 31 minutes in and had several opportunities to go further ahead.
Unsworth’s team played with speed and purpose throughout the first hour, and Rhys Hughes twice forced splendid stops from Dan Hanford in the away side’s goal. The Southport keeper also made a smart save from the dangerous Simms.
Both sides made a host of changes during the second half and Southport gradually began to assert pressure.
The away team levelled when Mo Ali applied the finishing touch following a slick free-kick move and snatched victory when Marcus Carver slotted home in stoppage time.
“For the first hour the performance was outstanding,” Unsworth told evertonfc.com.
“It was a great workout and I saw some really good things, there was some great play.
“It was a boiling hot day, and a great first pre-season game for us which was very competitive.
“There are lots of good things to work with, which [assistant manager] John Ebbrell, [coach] Franny Jeffers and I are delighted about.
“We had our strongest team out for that first hour - before we made lots of substitutions - and we played some outstanding football. Really good stuff.
“My only criticism is, we could have scored more goals to finish the game off.
“But there are lots of positives to take.”
Pictures: Julia Urwin
Unsworth, whose team will also face National League North side Chorley and League Two Morecambe during their pre-season programme, explained the wealth of benefits his young players gain from taking on experienced opposition.
Click here for information about Everton Under-23s' remaining pre-season fixtures.
“Facing those teams show the level of competitiveness there is at senior level,” he added.
“It also shows the importance of aspects like set-pieces, because the opponents are a lot stronger and more physical.
“Southport scored from a set-piece today, so that’s something hopefully the players will learn from.
“It so important to be able to compete physically in professional football.
“It was a great learning game for us against Southport.”