Everton Under 23s, second to bottom in the Premier League 2 table, almost pulled off a creditable victory against their mid-table Chelsea counterparts over the weekend. It was no surprise, given Rafa Benitez’s cautionary words about Tyler Onyango’s first team readiness, to see him line up in a strong Everton Under 23 team. Charlie Whitaker, who started the season in bright form made way today with Rhys Hughes being rewarded with a start after his fine cameo role in Monday night’s win in the Premier League Cup. Indeed, David Unsworth made reference to Onyango’s fitness levels:
“Tyler still needs four or five games at this level. He’s emptying the tank on 60/70 minutes and we need to get him up to 90. I’m delighted with him, he’s going in the right direction”
It was young Tom Cannon who had given the Blues a 54th minute lead, a goal in consecutive games for him. Again it was Hughes who set up the goal for him with a fine measured pass with Cannon angling an outstanding right footed shot into the far corner of the net. This was the same combination of players that worked on Monday night.
What followed was a period of sustained pressure by the hosts and cruelly in the 89th minute two points slipped away as Waring equalised for Chelsea with a header after a right wing free kick had evaded substitute Sebastian Quirk at the near post and the Chelsea man got ahead of Elijah Campbell.
The Toffees managed to see out the remaining five minutes including injury time. They will be hugely disappointed that they came so close to all three points but the result draws them level on points with 12th placed Blackburn Rovers and coach Unsworth was pleased with the overall display, so it could have been much worse.
“We’ve played some outstanding football, scored a great goal and took the fight to Chelsea. We were defensively resolute when we were up against it.”
Meanwhile, the Under 18s had taken on their Merseyside rivals Liverpool earlier on Saturday morning and were thumped 4-0 in spite of a stream of good saves by Everton’s Slovenian goalkeeper Zan-Luk Leban who kept the score down in a pretty one-sided affair. After the Reds’ first wonder strike goal, Everton almost equalised through the impressive Halid Djankpata who fired narrowly wide. Had that gone in it may have been a different story but it wasn’t to be unfortunately. The nearest the young Toffees came to scoring after that was a thumping shot from substitute Martin Sherif that hit the crossbar while the score was still 2-0. No complaints, the best team won on the day. Blues remain a healthy fifth place in the league.
Not a great weekend for the two teams but they get the opportunity to put things right next Saturday at home against Manchester City for the Under 23s and at home against Blackburn Rovers for the Under 18s.