Everton were boosted by the appearances of first-team squad centre back Jarrad Branthwaite, getting some much needed match minutes under his belt and young right back Kyle John, returning from injury at the Pure Stadium in Southport for their Friday home fixture against their Manchester United counterparts. There were some absentees however, notably main strikers Lewis Dobbin and Tom Cannon. In their absence Charlie Whitaker, who has been in fine personal form, led the line. The line up had a slightly more experienced look about it than of late with the inclusion of three 20 year old players.
Both sides entered the contest in need of some morale boosting points as they both surprisingly linger in the lower reaches of the table, having won only one match apiece and finding goals difficult to come by.
So, in a game of few clear-cut chances it was perhaps not a surprise that 1 goal while the match was still cold, would settle the spoils on a breezy night in Southport. In truth the young Blues were distinctly second best in the opening 25 minutes no doubt partly down to conceding such an early goal after just 2 minutes. Confidence did grow and the first shot on target by Luke Butterfield was quickly followed by another from Stanley Mills without seriously threatening the United goal.
The second half saw several substitutions by David Unsworth in an attempt to get even and without ever really testing the Red Devils’ goalkeeper they made a much better game of it and can count themselves unlucky not to have at least have a share of the spoils.
The last few minutes of normal time were spoiled by a 20-man melee following some over-reactions all round. Charlie Whitaker, somewhat harshly, saw red as well as two United players who had been the ones to start the pushing and shoving. In truth it could be argued that the referee and his assistants could maybe have brandished yellows to all players rather than reds. It had not been a particularly physical game.
Positive notes for the Blues were that Branthwaite completed 98 (yes, 98) minutes for the team, the last 10 as a centre forward as Everton tried to snatch a point. Kyle John at right back, after an early bout of rustiness, really grew into the game and must be at least in the thoughts of those looking to solve the full back difficulties at first team level. Others such as Joe Anderson and the lively substitute Sean McAllister stood out but it remains one win from 6 games and Everton need to bounce back quickly though it will sadly be without Charlie Whitaker.