David Unsworth saluted Charlie Whitaker’s “fantastic all-round performance” after the teenage forward hit a hat-trick in Everton Under-23s’ thumping 4-0 win over Southampton on Friday night.
The young Blues rounded off the 2020/21 campaign in style at Southport FC’s Pure Stadium, with centre-back Reece Hughes also on the scoresheet. The 17-year-old’s strike represented his first goal at Under-23s level.
The victory comes hot on the heels of a 5-0 success away at the Saints last time out and means the young Blues are assured of a top-six Premier League 2 finish. The Toffees will finish fifth in the table if Manchester United fail to beat Derby County on Monday night.
Manager Unsworth paid tribute to an impressive collective display from his youthful side – which featured seven players aged 18 or under – and gave special praise to Whitaker, 17, who has now struck five goals in just five appearances at Under-23 level.
“Since Charlie’s come into the team, he’s been fantastic,” Unsworth told evertonfc.com.
“Not just his goals but his all-round play. I’m really looking forward to working with him in the next campaign, starting from when we come back for pre-season.
“We spoke [before kick-off] about how we wanted to approach the game – making sure we are remembering a good performance through the summer and at the start of pre-season.
“And the lads were fantastic, absolutely terrific. We played some great stuff and scored some very good goals.
“It was a very good team performance.”
Everton got off to a flying start and hit the front after just eight minutes when Whitaker fired a pinpoint effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
The Toffees continued to control proceedings and doubled their lead midway through the first half when Welch tapped home from close range after Lewis Warrington’s cross deflected into his path.
Everton made it 3-0 eight minutes after the break when Whitaker powered a header past Saints goalkeeper Jack Bycroft from Rhys Hughes’ inviting corner delivery.
And Whitaker capped a memorable evening when he squeezed a shot under Bycroft two minutes from time to complete his hat-trick and a convincing Toffees victory.
“We’re delighted with how we’ve finished the season – we’ve finished really strongly,” added Unsworth.
“That’s all you can ask. And all the credit goes to the players.”