Stanley Mills’ second-half strike was enough for Everton Under-21s to earn all three points after a dominant Premier League 2 display against Brighton & Hove Albion at Haig Avenue on Sunday.
The midfielder bagged the winning goal on the hour mark when he started a free-flowing move with a powerful driving run from inside his own half. Mills played a through ball down the right wing to Tom Cannon who, in turn, found Mills inside the penalty area to slot past keeper James Beadle.
Everton started brightly, with Cannon managing the first sight of goal from a smart through ball by Charlie Whitaker, his chance parried away smartly by Beadle.
Cannon and chances became a constant theme throughout the afternoon as the striker went close again before the 10-minute mark. This time, good link-up play between the number nine and fellow forward Francis Okoronkwo ended with Cannon squeezing a shot at goal from a tight angle.
Paul Tait’s side came come again after patient build-up play saw the ball switched to the left-hand side finding Mackenzie Hunt, whose excellent cross was flicked goalbound by Isaac Price only to be deflected wide.
Cannon would continue searching for his goal, this time hitting an audacious volley just over the crossbar, before Mills forced another smart save from Beadle following a lovely lofted pass by Joe Anderson.
Everton were almost made to pay the price for their missed chances when Evan Ferguson headed onto the bar from a corner, showing signs of life for the visitors.
The Blues should have taken a lead into the second half as a smart set-piece routine fell kindly to Whitaker, again failing to trouble the keeper from a good angle.
Everton allowed the game to settle as they looked to keep hold of the ball and use patient possession-based build-up to unlock the Brighton defence.
And their patience was finally rewarded when Mills bagged the deserved winner with 60 minutes gone.
The home side remained in control for the final half hour, and although Cannon saw a lucrative scorpion kick fizz wide, as well as another overhead kick kept out, the points were wrapped up.
The victory moves Everton up to fourth in Premier League 2, having won four and drawn one of their opening six matches.
Tait’s side now have a break for internationals before returning to action on Friday 30 September away to Fulham.