The young Blues will be aiming to complete the domestic double having already clinched the Premier League 2 title a few weeks ago. Tonight’s opponents Newcastle finished up in fourth place in Division 2 of the PL2.
Path to the Final
Group Stages: Everton topped Group B with four wins and two draws against Blackburn Rovers, Sheffield United and Doncaster Rovers. Newcastle were runners up behind Leeds United in Group H, winning three, drawing twice and losing once.
Knockout Rounds: The Blues beat Sunderland 2-1 in the Round of 16 while the Magpies upset Group G winners Reading. The quarterfinals pitted the Blues against Blackburn again, and Everton prevailed 2-1 after having beaten them narrowly 1-0 and drawn 1-1 in the group stages. Newcastle meanwhile continued on their giant-killing run beating Derby County and their vaunted defence 3-2.
In the semis, both teams won away with the Toffees coming 2-0 winners from Swansea City while Newcastle hammered Leeds 3-0 to set up tonight’s game.
The young Blues are a confident lot who are getting used to the winning feeling having lifted the PL2 trophy twice now in the last three years. Goalkeeper Joao Virginia seems destined for greater things, with Marco Silva admitting that he will likely be in the fray for the senior side next season.
Captain Morgan Feeney is another one to keep an eye on, marshaling his defence with discipline while leading from the front. His aerial exploits on both ends of the pitch are a strong foundation for this side, and he is another player that will look to make the jump to the senior squad sooner than later.
Forwards Fraser Hornby and Bassala Sambou are full of confidence, but the man to watch will be winger Josh Bowler whose goal at Goodison Park secured the PL2 title. The youngster has been bombing forward with aplomb and is brimming with confidence.
Feeney and Sambou are both on the nine-man shortlist for the Premier League 2 Player-of-the-Season award, along with Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal), Aaron Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion), Danny Loader (Reading), Will Smallbone (Southampton), Rafael Camacho (Liverpool), Elias Sorensen (Newcastle United) and Adam Idah (Norwich City).
Newcastle meanwhile are through to the playoffs and will be looking for promotion into the upper tier (Division 1) of PL2 after today’s game, taking on Southampton with the winner making the jump up. Their centerpiece is 19-year-old Danish striker Sorensen, who has twenty goals in all competitions this season, and could have easily had more had he not sat on the bench on loan at Blackpool since January, with Newcastle eventually terminating his loan and bringing him back.
David Unsworth has continued his successful run with the Under-23 side, and is confident in his charges.
“All season this team has got better and better and better. All the credit goes to the players, they’ve stepped up, they’ve listened, they’ve performed, and they’ve won games. Individually and collectively as a team, they’ve been a pleasure to coach.
‘For young players, playing at Goodison Park is a big thing and the more we’ve done it, the more successful we’ve been and the more comfortable the players feel when they step out on the hallowed turf.
“Hopefully they can enjoy the occasion, perform and win the game. Then everyone will go into the summer very, very happy. It would be a great achievement for the players [to win the double].
“For them to have all these big games coming up is a fantastic feeling for them, it’s what we’re all in football for. It doesn’t matter what age group you’re looking after, or what team you’re with, to win leagues and cup finals is what we’re all about.
“It’s a lovely feeling to see a group of players who have worked so hard for 10 months to still be there challenging for trophies at the end of the season. It is what we’re all about.
“I’d love all the Evertonians to come out and watch our young players. The players love that, they love the support we get and any big crowd inside Goodison would be very much appreciated and we’d love to lift another trophy for them.”
How To Watch
The game is being played at Goodison Park starting at 7pm BST. The match is being live streamed on Everton’s YouTube channel, and the club is encouraging fans to attend with free admission for all tonight, with unreserved seating available via gates 48/49 and 53/54. No tickets will be required but children under the age of 16 need to be accompanied by an adult.
Here’s wishing the Under-23s all the best, and looking forward to them completing the double tonight!