David Unsworth hailed Stanley Mills’ “fantastic finishing ability” after the teenager hit a brace in Everton Under-23s’ 3-1 Premier League Cup victory over Sheffield United on Thursday night.
Everton were forced to come from behind at Chesterfield FC's Technique Stadium after Will Osula gave the Blades an early lead.
Katia Kouyate equalised for the Blues with a fine header on 26 minutes before Mills turned in Lewis Warrington’s corner to put Everton in front before half-time.
And the 18-year-old – who was operating in a central midfield role as opposed to his regular position on the wing – netted his second of the night in some style shortly after the break, rifling home a splendid effort from outside the box.
Speaking to evertonfc.com, Unsworth said: “Stan’s playing well and scoring goals and he just needs to keep going and stay fit.
“He’s got great finishing ability and it was good for him tonight because he played inside [in midfield] in a three, which will help him.
“For his first goal, he got in around the back, which he does really well, and his second was just a fantastic hit.
“He’s learning all the time. To play centrally was different for him and he did well. He’s a great lad and I love working with him.”
On his team’s overall display, Unsworth added: “It was a fantastic performance.
“We had a poor start, conceding from a mistake, but we got our goals at good times and we were superb.
“Considering they’ve had a 10-day break, the fitness levels were a credit to the players. We’ve been hit by Covid, too, and I’m so proud of the lads who played.”
The Blades took the lead as early as the third minute. Zan-Luk Leban in the Everton goal stopped a shot from Angelo Cappello but Osula picked up the loose ball and tapped in from close range.
Unsworth’s frustration at conceding a lax goal early on was compounded by the fact that Charlie Whitaker appeared to be impeded during the build-up. Whitaker needed treatment and a couple of minutes later he limped off.
Unsworth said: “I thought it was a foul on Charlie before they scored and he’s twisted his ankle. It looks like he may miss a couple of weeks.”
Everton levelled midway through the first half and it was a fine goal.
Mills fed the ball to Mackenzie Hunt on the left and the full-back’s perfect cross was met with a peach of a header from substitute Kouyate.
Hunt had earlier come close himself when he intercepted a forward pass before drilling a low shot wide.
In difficult playing conditions both sides continued to play good football and, on more than one occasion, Everton were indebted to some timely defending by Eli Campbell.
The Blues took the lead a minute before the break. Warrington swung a deep corner into the box and Mills stole in at the back post to turn the ball past the keeper for his fifth goal of the season.
His sixth wasn’t long in coming.
Four minutes into the second period, Mills carried the ball forward and let fly from 20 yards, giving Jordan Amissah in the Blades goal absolutely no chance.
Two minutes later, Hassan Ayari curled a free-kick from the edge of the Everton box over the bar before the hosts were thankful for some terrific goalkeeping by Jordan Assimah.
First, he was alert to keep out a fierce angled drive from Hunt and then from the subsequent corner he did superbly well to acrobatically turn away a superb effort from Warrington.
Late in the piece, Everton keeper Leban then did really well to thwart Femi Seriki who was clean through on goal.
This was a fine win for a young Blues team and perfect revenge for the 3-1 defeat inflicted on them at Southport by Sheffield United earlier in the competition.
Unsworth added: “We know we’re a good team and we know we can play good football.
“We’ve got goals in our team. We’ve still got some work to do but it’s great to be top of the group.”