Spirited Under-21s Edged Out In Premier League Cup

Everton Under-21s assistant coach Keith Southern praised the young Blues' fighting spirit after they battled back from a sloppy start that led to a 2-1 loss at Bristol City in the last 16 of the Premier League Cup.

The visitors were left with a mountain to climb when they conceded two goals in the opening nine minutes of the contest at the Robins High Performance Centre.

But Everton showed resolve to halve the deficit shortly after half-time as Francis Okoronkwo maintained his encouraging form in front of goal.

It wasn't enough to prevent Paul Tait's team from exiting the competition - but Southern insisted they could take positives from the encounter.

Speaking to evertonfc.com, he said: "We started slowly and gifted them a goal after 45 seconds with a cheap penalty.

“At half-time, it wasn’t about changing the game plan it was more about giving the players belief, and we showed great spirit in the second half.

“We came close on several occasions and we should’ve really taken the game into extra-time.

"It's obviously disappointing but it shows we have to start every game on the front foot. This is a development group and it’s all about learning.

“We’ve got two big games coming up, but we’ll make sure we’re prepared. It’s Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday and then Manchester United next weekend, and we’ll definitely be ready for both.”

Head Coach Tait made plenty of changes to the starting line-up, with Jack Barrett, Isaac Heath, Einar Iversen and Liam Higgins all coming into the side.

The young Blues endured a difficult start to the match and were trailing after just two minutes when Bristol City were awarded a penalty, Sebastian Palmer-Houlden converting from 12 yards to take his team 1-0 up.

The hosts then doubled their lead shortly afterwards, Marlee Francois assisting Sam Pearson to leave Everton with everything to do.

They responded well, however, and got their reward on 48 minutes when Katia Kouyate teed up Okoronkwo to find the back of the net.

The young Blues continued to have chances and worked hard to find another goal but it could not come and attentions now turn to Dinamo Zagreb in the Premier League International Cup at Walton Hall Park on Wednesday (7pm GMT).