In torrential rain Paul Tait’s young Everton Under-18s produced a really good display on Friday to ensure progress to the next round of the FA Youth Cup, beating Fulham 3-2 on the night in an exciting encounter.
Although Everton boasted five regular Under 23 players they also had a 17 year old goalkeeper Pat Nash and 15 year old left back Ishe Samuels-Smith making their first appearances under the floodlights of Goodison Park.
Everton started brightly with some flowing moves and some outstanding cross-field balls by Charlie Whitaker and Jenson Metcalfe usually into the path of Stanley Mills on the right wing. They went close on a couple of occasions when Whitaker went close after intricate footwork had bamboozled the Fulham defence. A fine move involving Whitaker, Mills and Isaac Price resulted in the latter bringing a great save from the Fulham goalkeeper. Scintillating stuff and yet against the run of play in the 21st minute, with their first meaningful move forward, Fulham took the lead. Their centre back was firstly allowed to carry the ball forward too easily, a shot was taken from the edge of the area and though Nash produced a good stop Fulham’s Olly Sanderson was first to the rebound and unbelievably Everton were behind.
Everton countered and a fine shot by the impressive Metcalfe brought another good save but the Blues had to annoyingly settle for going into the interval a goal down.
The second half saw the introduction of substitute and target man Frankie Okoronkwo for Katia Kouyate. Although the young Toffees struggled to get back to their rhythm of the first period, the pressure began to tell and after 15 minutes of the second half a great through ball by Whitaker saw Mills beat the offside trap and shoot neatly home.
A deserved equaliser and it was followed up 6 minutes later again by Mills to put Everton 2-1 ahead. It followed a good deep ball by Metcalfe being headed back by Blues right back Matty Mallon into the path of Mills. Although his left footed shot was heavily deflected he was yet again in the right place and deserved his luck.
The victory was effectively sealed following a misunderstanding between the Fulham left back and the goalkeeper with the number 3 rolling the ball towards his own net. The full back’s blushes were nominally spared as Blues striker Okoronkwo prevented a certain own goal to gleefully prod the ball home from about two feet out to give him his first Goodison goal.
Fulham, to their credit did not give up and in the 81st minute Nash in the home goal had to make a great stop to keep the two goal margin.
The excitement was not over though as the tie entered injury time. An over-zealous challenge by home skipper Mallon on Fulham forward Harris clearly merited a yellow card. What it prompted however was a violent reaction by Harris followed by a 12-man melee with players from both sides aggressively stating their case. Two red cards were produced for Mallon and Harris. From the resulting Fulham free kick wide on the left they got a goal with a superb direct shot over goalkeeper Nash into the top corner from Fulham’s outstanding player Matt Dibley-Dias.
There were several excellent performances in Blue, man of the match Mills stole the show but Whitaker and Metcalfe ran him close and 15 year old Samuels-Smith was remarkably assured at left back. The Blues now play either Sheffield United or Millwall in the 4th round.