It’s often been said that it’s not about the results at this level but more about Everton finding the next “Wayne Rooney”. After a wretched start to the season for the Under 23s it’s the sensible thing to say, it helps us to think about the longer term when results don’t go our way.
One look at the Premier League 2 Division 1 table before the game against their Leeds United counterparts on Monday night in Southport and you would be forgiven for thinking that those on the pitch and the touchline might have been thinking the same way.
Not last night, not one bit though. These young Blues battled their way home, there was a belief in their play. The team showed their mettle. This result was hugely important.
Going 2 goals down after just 36 minutes, the Blues showed real battling qualities and mental strength to claw their way back and deservedly win the contest. Maybe it had a little to do with the return from injury of one of the outstanding players from last season, Tyler Onyango, or the returning goalkeeper Harry Tyrer. Both played their part but make no mistake this was a team effort, indeed a squad effort as those from the bench were heavily involved.
The first Leeds goal owed a lot to luck as somehow the bounce and ricochet favoured the Whites’ Amari Miller against Everton’s Ryan Astley who had looked in control. Typical of what the Blues have suffered this season the ball somehow ended in the net. The second Leeds goal was more avoidable as Leeds’ Sam Greenwood got in between the Blues’ centre back pairing of Reece Welch and Ryan Astley and it was sadly looking an all too familiar story. This time though heads did not drop.
The comeback began at an ideal time 4 minutes before the half-time break with a towering header by the impressive left back Eli Campbell. He rose high at the far post to power home a Stanley Mills corner back across the goal leaving the Leeds keeper helpless.
“We just had to tighten things up in both boxes and stop rushing things. We gave away two soft goals but then got a lifeline and I told them that they’d win the game if we kept playing our football”.
Those were the half-time words of coach David Unsworth, The team were out five minutes early for the re-start and as early as the 53rd minute, no doubt buoyed by Campbell’s goal and Unsworth’s encouragement, Everton equalised courtesy of some fine work by Charlie Whitaker. He collected the ball wide from a long kick by goalkeeper Tyrer then fed Mills who, in turn, unselfishly laid the ball off for the better placed Lewis Dobbin. He made no mistake scoring from just inside the area. All square at 2-2 and it stayed that way for over half an hour.
With 5 minutes remaining, substitute Tom Cannon intercepted an awful Leeds throw in their defensive half and fed Whitaker on the left of the goalmouth and his powerful low shot at the near post put the Blues ahead. 3-2 amid jubilation from the Toffees men.
In the last minute of normal time and with Leeds pushing for an equaliser a Leeds attack floundered against the “brick wall” known as Lewis Warrington. He won the ball and drove forward to play in Cannon who took several men on at the edge of the penalty area. The ball fell kindly for fellow Everton substitute Rhys Hughes with the young Welshman unerringly firing home into the far corner sealing the three points.
While a much needed and morale boosting 4-2 win was secured through a strong effort, the Blues remain in 12th out of 14 clubs, and will need more performances of this ilk to climb back towards respectability, starting with the game away at Arsenal on Friday.
For now though, well done lads!