David Unsworth’s Everton Under-23s earned a deserved point retaining eighth spot in Premier League 2 after a good game with their Crystal Palace counterparts on Monday night in Southport.
The Blues lined up in a very clear 3-5-2 formation (it had been erroneously reported elsewhere as a back five) with Ryan Astley, Reece Welch and Eli Campbell behind a five-man midfield. Our two wing backs Kyle John and Mackenzie Hunt were aggressively pushed almost exclusively into the Palace half.
One definite similarity with the first team was evident as early as the first minute when it took an outstanding tackle from Astley to dispossess a Palace forward when a shot on goal looked a certainty. As per recent games the Blues, at all levels, were almost caught cold.
The returning Ellis Simms was named as part of a front pair alongside the industrious Tom Cannon, no doubt to build up his match fitness, having been involved with the first team but getting few minutes. It turned out to be an eventful game for him. After a somewhat rusty opening ten minutes Simms burst into life in typical fashion onto a great through ball from Stanley Mills only to uncharacteristically drag his shot wide of the left hand post.
It was end to end stuff in an entertaining game as Welch had to make a superb block to deny another certain goal, but in the following minute it was that man Mills scoring once again, stabbing home a right footed shot from a good cross by Hunt. Mills is revelling in his form right now and the recent switch to central midfield is helping him find more dangerous spaces. 1-0 to the Blues!
Mills and Simms both went close again before the half time whistle but on the restart the Palace team started with much more intensity and pinned the Blues back. When Palace equalised the only surprise was the scorer as an off-balance Ellis Simms headed into the very top corner of his own net from a corner in the 59th minute. It kind of summed up his night, after a first 10 minutes in which he had not retained possession particularly well he had held the ball up well thereafter and dovetailed with Cannon to good effect yet it was the normally reliable finishing that let him down, at least towards the opposition goal!
The young Blues were sloppy with their passing in the second half and just after the hour mark Unsworth had seen enough and introduced the more physical Seb Quirk and Isaac Price for Mills and Rhys Hughes who had become over-run. 3 minutes later the changes paid dividends after Price found himself in the right place following a Simms mis-kick in the area and he gleefully fired home. 2-1 to the Blues.
Typical of the game however, Palace equalised in the 70th minute as their impressive player Jesurun Rak-Sakyi bamboozled Everton midfielder Lewis Warrington on the edge of the area before firing home past goalkeeper Harry Tyrer who had performed well for the Toffees. 2-2 and further late chances fell mainly to Everton and Cannon in particular as he had a good shot saved by the Palace keeper and had a shot cleared off the line after good work from Simms.
So the Blues had to be satisfied with a point, there were many positives including the build up of match fitness for Simms who played the full 90 and we played some entertaining football in the first half.