It was last minute heartbreak for Derby County Under-23s as they conceded in the final minute of the game to lose 2-1 against Everton at Goodison Park.
Forward Cameron Cresswell thought he had earned a point for the Rams as he scored with his first touch of the game on 81 minutes, but Ellis Simms’ strike in the final minute ensured Everton earned all three points.
Manasse Mampala had given the Toffees the lead midway through the second half, whilst in the final minute of normal time, midfielder Jordan Brown was dismissed for two bookable offences and Everton made the Rams pay.
Midfielder George Evans made his return from a recent injury which had sidelined him for over two months There was a starting place for midfielder George Evans who made his return from a recent injury which ruled him out for two months.
It was a quiet opening to proceedings at Goodison Park with both sides enjoying spells of possession, but chances were few and far between.
It took until the 18th minute for either side to have an attempt on goal, and Everton should have really taken the lead.
A cross from the left by Joe Anderson found the head of central defender Con Ouzounidis but his effort fell wide of Henrich Ravas’ goal.
Everton striker Ellis Simms fired over from 25 yards shortly after, but the Rams almost capitalised on a defensive mix up just before the half hour mark.
Nobody took control in the Toffees back line and that allowed Jahmal Hector-Ingram to nick the ball away from the defender, however, Joao Virginia was quickly out to pick up the loose ball.
Derby grew into the encounter and started to dictate the play and it was their pace that was causing devastating problems for the Everton defence.
The front three of Hector-Ingram, Rushian Hepburn-Murphy and Josh Shonibare, along with Morgan Whittaker and Louie Sibley behind them, were scaring the opposition, but they just could not find the opening goal.
Whittaker went the closest to scoring on 32 minutes, but his effort flew over the crossbar.
It was almost the home side that took the lead in the final minute of the half. A cross into the box found Simms whose header rebounded off the post.
With Ravas beaten and on the floor, Dennis Adeniran thought he had the simple task of giving the Toffees the lead going into the break, however, out of nowhere, Callum Minkley got back in the nick of time to ensure it remained goalless at the break.
Everton started the second half with a lot more energy and were almost rewarded five minutes into the half.
Dennis Adeniran managed to pick the ball up in space on the edge of the area and curl towards goal. Ravas made a good stop to deny the winger, whilst Jordan Brown was able to clear from the rebound.
At the other end, Sibley forced a strong one-handed save from Everton goalkeeper Virginia as he struck from the edge of the box.
Evans lasted 60 minutes on his return from injury as Derby reshuffled their pack, introducing both Alex Babos and Archie Brown.
However, it would be the hosts who managed to grab the opening goal of the game on 67 minutes.
Everton forward Mampala managed to create some space for himself inside the penalty area and, with the assistance of the post, he managed to squeeze the ball past Ravas to give the Toffees the advantage.
With time seemingly running out, the Rams made their final change and brought on Cresswell in place of Hector-Ingram.
And that substitution paid off as Cresswell made an immediate impact, scoring with his first touch of the game.
Neat play saw Whittaker find Babos in space on the edge of the box. He threaded a neat through ball to the forward who made no mistake from 12 yards to equalise.
The Rams’ tails were up, however, they were dealt a blow as Brown was booked twice in quick succession and was given his marching orders.
That seemed to inspire the hosts and they would grab the winner in the fourth minute of injury time as Simms coolly slotted past Ravas to ensure Everton gained all three points.
Derby County: Ravas, Ebosele, Brown, Evans (Babos 60’), Wassall, Minkley, Hepburn-Murphy (Brown 60’), Whittaker, Hector-Ingram (Cresswell 80’), Sibley, Shonibare.