Everton Under-18s boss Paul Tait says his team will approach Saturday’s match against league leaders Manchester United with “sky-high confidence” following their dramatic FA Youth Cup third-round triumph on Wednesday night.
The young Blues came from two goals down to beat Wigan Athletic 4-2 after extra time at Southport FC's Pure Stadium. The Toffees will travel to Manchester City in the fourth round, with the tie provisionally slated for Saturday 3 April.
Everton’s immediate attention now returns to the U18 Premier League (North), with the Toffees aiming to sustain their momentum after three consecutive victories when United visit USM Finch Farm on Saturday (11am GMT).
Maximum points could see fifth-placed Everton move into the division’s top-four.
“Confidence will be sky-high after the Youth Cup win,” Tait told evertonfc.com.
“The boys will be feeling really good about themselves. We had a few injuries – which we need to look at – and some of the lads will go with the First Team and some back to the Under-23s for their game against Arsenal.
“There were lads who missed out against Wigan who will play on Saturday.
“United are top of the league so it’s going to be another really good game. We’ll need to move on from the cup win and keep using that confidence, resilience and character we showed.
“There are some tactical areas where we got better as the game went on against Wigan, in terms of our build-up and link-up play, and our attacking threat. We’ll look to take that into the United game, too.”
Tait says Everton’s blend of determination, resolve and technical quality were all required in their stirring Youth Cup comeback victory.
Goals from Sean McGurk and Harry McHugh put Wigan in a commanding position before Matthew Mallon halved the deficit for the Toffees.
Everton striker Tom Cannon then saw a penalty well saved but the Blues levelled through Reece Welch midway through the second half.
And Cannon settled the tie by netting twice in extra-time. He found the bottom corner with a precision strike from the edge of the area and stepped up again when Everton were awarded a spot-kick – this time slotting home from 12 yards.
“Tom’s a goalscorer,” Tait said.
“I think you’ve got to be a certain type to keep putting yourself in positions to score. He doesn’t hide. That takes a certain type of mental toughness and instinct.
“I was delighted with him. His all-round game was really good. For five or 10 minutes, he let the penalty miss affect him a little bit.
“But then, after the half-time break, he was very good.”
Tait said Cannon’s attitude was reflected throughout his team.
“I was really proud of the way the lads showed character and resilience,” he added.
“It was a real cup tie. It was a bit of a shaky start from the boys, we didn’t quite get into our rhythm.
“Credit to Wigan, they started really well and they pressed us – they didn’t allow us to play.
"But from half-time onwards, we took control.
“You’ve got to remember these games are a massive part of their development as players. Those qualities of resilience and character are so important for them if they want to progress to play in our First Team or anywhere as a professional.
“We spoke about that at half-time – and the players spoke about what they needed to turn the game around.
“Firstly, psychologically, coming up with those traits of good resilience and character, and then turning that into quality football on the pitch. We produced that.”