David Unsworth praised a 'proper Everton performance' as his Under-23s recorded a 3-0 Premier League 2 victory over Leicester City at Southport on Monday night.
Second-half goals from Callum Connolly, Ellis Simms and Josh Bowler earned the young Blues their maiden league win of 2020/21 as they responded in style to their Merseyside derby loss last time out.
“We asked for a reaction from the Liverpool performance and we got it,” said Unsworth. “That was I call a proper Everton performance tonight.
“We were on the front foot against a strong team. Leicester will do well again this season and it took us a while to break them down but we carved them open in the second half. I am absolutely delighted.”
Unsworth’s pre-match plans were thrown into disarray by two early injuries.
First, Kyle John limped off with an ankle problem and then just 14 minutes in, Nathan Broadhead suffered a hamstring injury.
But Bowler was terrific in the first half and at times the visitors couldn’t handle the winger.
The 21-year-old sprinted down the right on 15 minutes and when he squared a well-weighted pass to Tyler Onyango, the midfielder was unlucky to see his effort flash inches wide.
Bowler himself was unfortunate just before the half-hour mark. Substitute Rhys Hughes played a superb cross-field pass and Bowler skipped infield before firing just off target.
It was a good contest with Everton by far the more creative, with Hughes in particular catching the eye with some first-rate distribution.
Simms forced Jakub Stolarczyk into a smart save before the break after being teed up by Bowler and, early in the second period, Hughes’ first-time volley from the edge of the box was just too high.
The breakthrough came on the hour when a Hughes corner was headed powerfully into the net by Connolly.
The Blues doubled the lead with 13 minutes remaining when Simms broke clear on the right of the penalty area before sliding the ball past Stolarczyk.
Bowler finally got the goal he deserved shorty after. Hughes played another superb through pass and although Bowler’s first effort was blocked, he picked up the loose ball and rifled it into the roof of the net.
“Rhys (Hughes) is another of the younger boys who have stepped up and he’s a lovely technical footballer, coming off the sides," added Unsworth. "He got his opportunity early tonight because of an injury and he was fantastic.
“Josh is a raw talent and an unusual talent in that you don’t see many jinking wingers like him. He gets himself in so many very good positions and maybe he should score more goals but he’s twisted his marker inside out tonight and the full-back will be dizzy!”