In rounding up the Everton Under-21s activity of the last week it’s only right to start with the 6-0 hammering of Hartlepool United in the Papa John’s Trophy last Tuesday evening in the North-East.
It’s always a good physical test and mental challenge when the Under 21s take on seasoned professionals from the lower reaches of the Football League. Usually, it’s a case of potential versus experience and the regular outcome is that it’s a close contest as one advantage cancels out the other. Not the case last week as Paul Tait, back in his native North-East, saw his young charges take Hartlepool apart.
Proudly wearing their “full” Everton squad numbers, which ranged from #46 for Sean McAllister to #88 for substitute Francis Okoronkwo, the dismantling began as early as the 9th minute as a marauding run by left midfielder Mackenzie Hunt set up Stan Mills who saw his shot on the turn beaten away but Tom Cannon drove the ball home from 15 yards out. In the 20th minute Mills, Charlie Whitaker and Cannon all combined to lay the ball across goal for Hunt to batter home from six yards, 2-0.
Eight minutes later it was the turn of Mills who benefited following a fine tackle by Seb Quirk in midfield. The ball was played through to Everton’s goalscoring right winger Mills and his unusually tame shot squirmed embarrassingly between the crouching goalkeeper’s legs. As the old adage goes, “they all count” and 3-0.
| All SIX goals from #EFCU21 in last night's @PapaJohnsTrophy triumph at Hartlepool United.— Everton Academy (@EvertonAcademy) October 19, 2022
Superb, Blues! pic.twitter.com/qc1qhmdKaq
If Mills’ goal was uncomfortable viewing if you have any sympathy for a goalkeeper who makes an error, then the 4th goal on the stroke of half time was anything but uncomfortable. Cannon beat his man on the edge of the area and thumped it into the far corner. Two goalkeepers would not have saved that one, 4-0!
The next goal came along 8 minutes into the second half as the impressive McAllister burst forward to set up Mills who patiently worked the ball onto his left foot to fire home as he was closed down, 5 for the Blues.
Last, but not least, in the 71st minute a stunning run by Kyle John saw him feed the in-form Whitaker who skilfully controlled under pressure from defenders and the goalkeeper to steer home. 6-0 the final score.
If that was elation for the young Blues then a familiar thump back to Earth followed in the ‘Derby’ match against Liverpool on Saturday afternoon where they lost 2-1 despite taking an early lead from the prolific Mills who side-footed home at the far post after finding himself unmarked. 1-0 to the Blues.
Blues goalkeeper Zan-Luk Leban was called into action as he denied Reds forward Musialowski with his feet but he could do little to prevent a 30th minute equaliser of our own making. Reece Welch’s under-hit back-pass left Leban stranded and Cain lofted the ball into the Blues net, 1-1.
Liverpool became dominant and only fine goalkeeping by Leban prevented more damage as the game turned over-physical in true Merseyside derby tradition, a spate of yellow cards followed.
The introduction of Blues substitute Okoronkwo almost reaped instant reward as he saw his shot narrowly miss the target. Had that gone in, the end result may well have been changed but the winner came courtesy of a lucky deflection on Doak’s shot. 2-1 behind and that’s how it stayed despite good late efforts from regular goal-scorers Cannon and Mills. Unlucky Blues!
Looking back at the season so far as a whole, the Under 21s have scored an impressive 27 goals across 13 games across all U21 competitions while conceding 16 goals. Top scorers for the squad are Cannon with 8, Mills with 7 and 3 apiece for Whitaker, Price and McAllister. They’re certainly an exciting team to watch and one or two of these lads must surely be getting closer to Frank Lampard’s first team. You would hope that the away fixture to Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup might see some chances offered. Next Premier League 2 action is on Saturday 29th October when they host Manchester City.