Ellis Simms scored twice as Everton earned a 4-0 win over Plymouth Argyle to secure their place in the last 16 of the Premier League Cup.
Dennis Adeniran and Ryan Astley were also on target as the 2018/19 winners went three points clear of second-placed Watford, whom they face in their final match on 21 February.
Plymouth remain bottom of Group B but still have a chance of progressing if they beat Fulham on 25 February.
David Unsworth praised his team’s winning mentality as Everton eased into the knockout phase of the Premier League Cup with a 4-0 win against Plymouth Argyle at Home Park.
The weather conditions were horrendous at times during the game with driving rain and a strong, swirling wind making things very difficult for both sets of players.
Everton ultimately wrapped up a comfortable victory, however, with Ellis Simms netting a brace and Dennis Adeniran and Ryan Astley also on the scoresheet
“It was a great performance, with some great goals and a clean sheet,” said Unsworth. “The players showed a great attitude and it gives us a real platform now to go on for the rest of the season.
“We knew that the likes of Morgan (Feeney) and Antony (Evans) would be leaving us and it would be an opportunity for some of the young players to step up.
‘We have to mould those players into a team now and a winning mentality can help to push them on.”
Everton spurned an excellent opportunity to take the lead in the 20th minute. A super pass by Beni Baningime released Adeniran on the right and when he pulled the ball back across goal for Simms, the striker was tripped.
The referee pointed instantly to the spot but Adeniran’s kick was well saved by Mike Cooper.
Fortunately, it took Adeniran just three minutes to make amends when he attacked the right-hand side of the Argyle penalty area before drilling a fine finish past the keeper.
The second goal came on 37 minutes. Nathangelo Markelo powered forward from midfield, leaving three Argyle defenders in his wake. When he was finally stopped, the loose ball was squared across the box by Kyle John for Simms to poke into the net.
The third goal came with the very last touch of the first period. Adeniran swung a corner into the Plymouth box and Astley glanced his header into the corner of the net.
Simms scored his second, and Everton’s fourth, in the 63rd minute. Matthew Foulds floated a lovely cross towards the far post and Simms had the simplest of tasks to nod the ball into the net.
Everton were full value for their win and certainly weren’t flattered by the margin of victory. Indeed, it could well have been more than four.
John was unfortunate not to be on the scoresheet and Simms was fractions away from netting his third. The striker is on 10 goals for the season and it could have been 11 in the last minute when his effort hit the crossbar.
There was much to enthuse about the display – not least of which the performance of captain Baningime.
“Beni has been struggling with his ankle for about 12 months now,” explained Unsworth. “The type of lad he is, he’s just got on with it and played through the pain.
“The medical team have worked with him and that was his first game back at 100 per cent. I am really looking forward to seeing him progress from now until the end of the season because he’s a top player.”