Charlie Whitaker Shines

Remember the name Charlie Whitaker.

The 17-year-old scored a superb hat-trick against Southampton at Southport to take his under-23 tally to five goals and two assists in five appearances since being promoted by David Unsworth.

Marcel Brands will have been pleased as he watched from the stands.

Everton were aiming to reduce the average starting age of their u-23 side this term and, at 18 on Friday, their mission was accomplished while putting Southampton to the sword.

Whitaker, who can play behind-the-striker or lead the line, is lively, sharp and, most importantly, knows where the goal is.

He opened the scoring with a low drive from outside the penalty area in the first-half while his second was a brave header slammed home after a wicked Rhys Hughes corner.

The forward completed his hat-trick in the dying embers with a well-taken finish under pressure.

Whitaker has made the most eye-catching start to life in the u-23s since Anthony Gordon, who went on to feature for the first-team under Carlo Ancelotti before his January loan move to Preston North End.

With the Premier League 2 season culminating for Everton on Friday, Brands could do worse than promote Whitaker into first-team training until the end of the season with options, admittedly, in short supply.

But if the teenager does embark on a summer holiday, it will be well deserved after a breakout campaign at academy level.

This will not be the last you hear of him.

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Rhys Hughes Impact

You might not have noticed the quiet impact of Rhys Hughes at Southport on Friday evening.

But both David Unsworth and Marcel Brands certainly will have.

Hughes registered two 'pre-assists' - to use the modern phrase - for the opening goals of the game before creating one of his own with a deadly corner kick in the second-half. He has fashioned a role as something of a set-piece specialist this term.

The opener came from good positioning, inside his own half, to win the ball back and release Tom Cannon, who in turn fed Charlie Whitaker, while his quick thinking to play a short-corner to Lewis Warrington allowed Reece Welch to make it two.

Hughes is understood to be on the radar of several Championship outfits and on this evidence it is easy to understand why.

His build and technique resembled Gylfi Sigurdsson as he floated inside from the left - despite naturally favouring a central role - and he continued to find space and link-up with marauding 16-year-old full-back Thierry Small throughout the evening.

At 19, Hughes was an elder statesmen in the starting line-up, leaving Everton with a decision over his short-term future over the next 12 months.

But with his technical ability and knack of picking up space between the lines, the Welsh under-21 international has certainly shown he can cut it at this level.

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Missing Men

Nathan Broadhead and Con Ouzounidis both missed out against Southampton for different reasons.

Broadhead was suffering with a dead leg - and could be in contention for the first-team trip to West Ham United on Sunday - while Everton decided not to risk Ouzounidis because of an upcoming international opportunity with Australia.

The pair are out of contract in June and their futures remains unclear. Broadhead, 23, has scored 11 goals in his previous 11 u-23 appearances and made his Premier League debut under Carlo Ancelotti last month at Brighton and Hove Albion.

His late flurry of goals may well have given Everton and Marcel Brands greater consideration of a new deal, but should he exit on a free, there would surely be interest from the Championship.

The writing was likely on the wall for Ouzounidis on Friday afternoon though.

Everton registered their interest in Wigan Athletic defender James Carragher - son of former Liverpool centre-back Jamie - and the 18-year-old would join the u-23 set-up should he arrive at Finch Farm in the summer.

It was a clear hint Ouzounidis, 21, looks likely to exit as Reece Welch, 17, also impressed against Southampton alongside Joe Anderson.

Anderson, 20, has been offered a new deal but is another to have EFL clubs hoping to land his services.

Everton have also tabled extensions to Ryan Astley and Kyle John.