Everton’s academy graduates shone as interim manager David Unsworth led a young team to a 3-0 victory over relegated Norwich City in the Premier League on Sunday.
At the end of a week in which Roberto Martinez was sacked as Everton manager, Under-21s boss Unsworth blooded some of the club’s most promising young stars and they did not let him down at Goodison Park.
James McCarthy opened the scoring in the sunshine on Merseyside and Leighton Baines made it 2-0 with a penalty before half-time, but all eyes were on midfielders Tom Davies and Kieran Dowell, both of whom made vital contributions.
The second half saw young defender Jonjoe Kenny provide the assist for Kevin Mirallas to make it 3-0 and the home crowd were left with much cause for optimism at the end of a tough season.
The result was Norwich’s ninth defeat in their last 10 Premier League away games, and manager Alex Neil will need to target an improvement in his side’s form on the road if he is given the opportunity to mount a promotion charge in the Championship next season.
Unsworth gave a starting place to Matthew Pennington as well as full first-team debuts to Dowell and Davies, while Neil restored Matt Jarvis and Cameron Jerome to his starting line-up.
Romelu Lukaku’s goals have been a bright spot in a difficult campaign for Everton, and the Belgium international almost added to his league tally of 18 but Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy denied him with a good double save after 10 minutes.
Everton’s opening goal came from a less likely source when McCarthy slammed home an emphatic first-time shot from 20 yards after a strong run from Dowell, whose confidence and positivity delighted the home crowd throughout the first half.
Defensive frailties were one of the major issues of Martinez’s tenure at Everton, but lone Norwich striker Jerome failed to threaten Tim Howard’s goal in the first half despite some industrious play by Graham Dorrans and Nathan Redmond.
On the cusp of half-time, Lukaku tumbled under a challenge from Norwich substitute Robbie Brady, and Baines coolly slotted the penalty low into the corner of the net to send Everton in 2-0 up at the break.
With the second half just three minutes old, Dowell carved an opening that saw McCarthy feed substitute Kenny and the 19-year-old crossed for Mirallas to score a simple tap-in at the far post.
Howard, making the final appearance of a 10-year Everton career, was determined to end his time at the club with a clean sheet and he saved well with his foot when Brady fired in a dangerous low shot.
Dowell received a rapturous round of applause when he was replaced by Ross Barkley for the last 20 minutes of the game, and though the England international made a wonderful mazy dribble before testing Ruddy with a shot, he did not do enough to steal the show from the new breed of Everton stars.