Hallam Hope’s close-range strike helped brave Everton Under-21s come from behind to earn a point at Newcastle United on Monday.
Alan Stubbs’ charges regularly found themselves under the cosh against a vastly more experienced home side at St James’ Park but battled back to take a deserved share of the spoils.
The young Blues were also indebted to some heroic defending from centre-back Jonjoe Kenny and a number of fine stops by goalkeeper Mateusz Taudul.
Matchwinner Hope actually had the ball in the net inside six minutes, only to see his stabbed effort ruled out when the referee’s assistant flagged for an earlier infringement.
Taudul then made his first contribution of an impressive performance, tipping away a thumping long-range strike from England Under-20 star Gael Bigirimana.
Newcastle continued to apply pressure, and on eight minutes former Everton midfielder Dan Gosling might have done better with a headed attempt from eight yards.
Full-back Paul Dummett nodded another chance wide soon after and Gosling went close again as the Blues were forced to soak up wave after wave of early assaults.
And the weight almost told on 27 minutes, only for Kenny to produce a moment of brilliance and acrobatically head Adam Campbell’s goalbound effort off the line.
At the other end, Chris Long looked Everton’s best hope on the counter attack but twice the striker found himself on the wrong end of marginal offside decisions.
Five minutes before the break, Campbell fired over from the edge of the box after losing his balance. But it was a warning the hosts remained a threat – and they duly went in front with all but the final kick of the half.
Slovenia international Haris Vuckic picked up possession down the Everton left and ran at Tyias Browning and Ibou Touray. The ball eventually found its way to James Tavernier and the defender laid off Adam Armstrong to rifle home from 18 yards.
Vuckic, one of seven Newcastle players with Premier League experience, was involved again shortly after the break but this time opted to shoot from distance and left Taudul with a comfortable save.
Everton might have sank deeper and deeper as the hosts continued to press, but instead they looked to capitalise on the break, and on 51 minutes Long went as close as his side had managed in drilling a low shot across the face of goal and inches past the post.
Taudul was then called upon to produce his best moment, the Pole scrambling backwards and throwing himself full stretch to tip over Bigirimana’s deflected looping shot.
On 68 minutes, Hope got a rare sniff of goal but rushed after getting the better of centre-back Macauley Gillesphey and blazed high and wide from the edge of the box.
He didn’t have long to stew. Two minutes later, the industrious Kenny threaded a through ball for Long, and when the striker pulled it back across the face of goal, there was Hope to bundle in from a yard out.
By way of response, Newcastle pushed forward in numbers and within seconds Sammy Ameobi was left to watch his dinked attempt ping off the post and away from danger.
Lesson heeded, Everton got men back and only had to endure one truly nervy moment when Campbell swivelled on the floor late on and hooked a loose ball against the bar from six-yards out.