Everton Under 23s left it late to assert themselves in a 2-0 win over Burnley in the FA Premier Cup match at the Pure Stadium Southport on Monday night. This gave them their first three points in the Group D table of this competition.
You would have expected that, given the severe criticism that the first team received in the wake of their heavy defeat against Watford at Goodison, the young Blues would have an extra spring in their step with one eye on a call up to Rafa Benitez’s training squad. If you did, like we all did, then you would have been bitterly disappointed with the first half. Aside from a clever dribble by Lewis Dobbin and some energetic running by right back Kyle John, the watching first team coach Duncan Ferguson and new Under 18s assistant manager Leighton Baines must have been just as unimpressed as those watching the game on Everton’s Official YouTube channel or those few hundred that attended the ground.
A looping non-threatening header by Tyler Onyango was the only attempt on target that the Toffees had to show during a frankly boring and low tempo first 45 minutes in which we had witnessed sloppy unforced errors and a succession of backwards and sideways passes by the young Blues, often seeing the attack retreat from the Burnley penalty area to their own.
The welcome half time break saw Stanley Mills appear as substitute for Onyango hopefully not with a recurrence of his injury problem. There must have been some strong words at half-time because a few individuals like Lewis Warrington suddenly found his passing range after a below par first 45, Dobbin made inroads from his left wing position, John threatened even more from the right wing and Tom Cannon began to have some success against a resolute Burnley defence marshalled by Jake Rooney, cousin of blues legend Wayne.
The breakthrough came after determined work in the 74th minute by Everton substitute Rhys Hughes. He was fouled on the edge of the area and the young Welsh dead ball specialist arced the resulting free kick over the defensive wall and well out of the reach of the Burnley goalkeeper. Nine minutes later the game was over as a contest as a lovely flick from Dobbin set that man Hughes up again to take the ball to the by-line before crossing for a neat finish from Cannon.
One remaining bit of excitement in the game saw a 90th minute Burnley penalty kick after Mills was adjudged to have fouled the impressive Burnley forward, Michael Mellon. Max Thompson, who had been on Everton’s books 2 years ago, stepped forward confidently only to balloon the kick so forcefully over the bar that it may well have ended up in the neighbouring town of Ormskirk.
To be honest, the scoreline flattered the Blues a little and if there had been any Evertonians hoping for the emergence of a young player to seriously threaten the places of those who badly failed on Saturday in the Premiership then they will have been disheartened. Next up for the Under 23s is a trip to Chelsea on Saturday.