KEVIN SHEEDY was full of praise for his young side after Everton Under-18s staged a stirring FA Youth Cup fightback against Arsenal.
The Blues went behind to Chuba Akpom’s 11th-minute opener on Monday night at Underhill in Barnet, but hit back in style to record a 4-2 victory and reach the quarter-finals.
Matthew Pennington levelled the scoring moments later, before Chris Long, Conor Grant and Harry Charsley put the Gunners to the sword during a whirlwind start to the second half.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Sheedy. “I’m not surprised the way the players have been recently, the way they’ve trained, we’ve got great camaraderie about the team, they all play for each other, they try their hardest and they’re an excellent group of players to work with and they more than deserved the result tonight.
“I’m really proud of them, I was proud of them after the last round but this is an excellent Arsenal team and we had to work exceptionally hard, which the players do and I think the 4-2 scoreline was the right score.”
Sheedy’s opposite number had approached the game with intent – and opted to rest his entire starting line-up for Saturday’s league fixture against Manchester City.
“That was a very, very good Arsenal team – don’t underestimate them,” said Sheedy. “They’ve got some excellent players but our work ethic and desire to win was there and we thoroughly deserved to beat them.
“Our finishing was excellent. I said to the lads before the game that we had plenty of players who could score goals, whether it be from set-pieces or open play.
“We conceded a soft goal and there was a good finish for their second, but we’ve got goals in our own team. If we perform like that, they’ll have no complaints from me.”
And after three away ties so far in the competition, Sheedy admits a home tie against Norwich or Birmingham City in the quarter-finals will be a welcome prospect.
“It will be nice,” he said. “But we’ve had tough encounters and it’s good experience for the players to come away and play at league grounds. They’ll learn and it’s good for their development.
“I’ve got no qualms about their character, I work with them every day, me and Duncan Ferguson, and they give us what they’ve got, they want to get better, they want to improve, they want to be a team and they showed that tonight with the camaraderie as I said, and their will to win and that was there in abundance and you know we’re doing really well at the moment.”
The game between Norwich and Birmingham takes place next Tuesday, February 26.