Paul Tait is savouring the chance to blood a new wave of talented youngsters in the closing phase of Everton Under-18s’ promising campaign.
Manager Tait’s team delivered an electric second-half display at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday to complete a comprehensive turnaround following a sluggish opening 45 minutes.
Tom Cannon’s ninth league goal of the campaign drew Everton level on the stroke of half-time after an own goal from Roman Quintyne put the hosts in front.
Rafa Garcia struck 60 seconds after the restart to give Everton a grip on the game they wouldn’t relinquish.
Tait withdrew Cannon and Garcia with 20 minutes remaining in advance of the 18-year-old forward pair’s potential involvement in Sunday’s Under-23 match at Southampton.
On went 15-year-old Emilio Lawrence and he crashed home with two minutes remaining to put the outcome beyond doubt.
The victory was a fourth in six Premier League North matches and the perfect response to the disappointment of Tuesday’s FA Youth Cup exit at Wolves’ Black Country rivals West Bromwich Albion.
“We didn’t want to make excuses and feel sorry for ourselves [following the Cup tie] and spoke about keeping our standards high,” Tait told evertonfc.com.
“There were quite a few changes to the team but a few lads who were involved in the week were out there today.
“We are stretched because of injuries, so it provides opportunities for other players. Most of our first-year scholars are with the Under-23s.
“But that is great, that is my job, I am a development coach.
“So [the attitude is], Where are the next players? Let’s get them with us and develop them.
“It is a fast-track for their progression… it gives them a glimpse of what it’s like to be a full-time player before next season.
“Today, we had Under-16s in [defender] Jenson Metcalfe and Quintyne playing 90 minutes.
“Owen Barker [the 16-year-old midfielder] played most of the game. And we replaced two 18-year-olds with two 15-year-olds in the second half.
“It was pleasing because they played the same style of football and produced the same type of play we had from the older boys.”
For all their determination to make a quick start Everton were initially second best to Wolves.
The home team scored on 27 minutes, a “poor goal”, admitted Tait, after his side conceded a cheap free-kick in dangerous territory.
No complaints from Tait over the scoreline at that juncture, only a wish to see his side play with more speed and ambition.
They answered that call on 45 minutes, a razor-sharp passage of play ending with Sean McAllister finding Cannon to apply an assured finish.
“We weren’t great in the first half, we didn’t play with any intensity or pace and were a little bit lackustre,” said Tait.
“We were slow with and without the ball, we gave away a poor goal and that gave Wolves a bit of confidence.
“But the equaliser was a good striker’s goal after a nice move.
“That gave us a bit of belief, we talked at half-time about upping the tempo and raising the intensity of the passing and movement."
The serially impressive Garcia turned the game on its head 60 seconds after the interval to usher in a dominant second-half display.
By full-time, Everton had registered 12 shots on target to their opponents’ one.
They had to wait until 88 minutes to secure the points, nonetheless, Lawrence comprehensively defeating Wolves goalkeeper Palmi Arinbjornsson with a fine effort.
“After Rafa’s goal we were very good and played some excellent stuff,” added Tait, whose team play Manchester City at USM Finch Farm on Tuesday.
“The players knew at half-time they could do better, I didn’t need to tell them.
“It wasn’t for want of trying, they weren’t moving the ball fast enough or playing through the lines, it was too safe.
“Tom’s goal settled us down and gave us something to build from.
“Emilio gave us a threat. He can hit the ball with both feet and shifted it from right to left to score a smashing goal.”