A Tuesday night in Southport as the nights draw in towards winter is not the most welcoming place for supporters and Everton’s Under-21s made sure it was the same sort of welcome for their opponents from the German capital, Hertha BSC as they eased their way to a 4-1 victory.
For those supporters who don’t know, the Premier League International Cup pitches 12 of England’s best academies against their international counterparts from France, Germany, Portugal, Netherlands, Spain, Czech Republic, Croatia and, closer to home, Scotland.
The teams in Everton’s group are Hertha BSC and SC Braga from Portugal who we beat 5-0 a month or so ago and Paris St Germain, Dinamo Zagreb as well as English sides Crystal Palace, Stoke City and local rivals Liverpool.
The match itself saw Paul Tait rest a few of his regular scorers namely Tom Cannon and Stan Mills and gave starts to Halid Djankpata, Katia Kouyate as well as Francis Okoronkwo.
As early as the 15th minute Charlie Whitaker seemed to get his head to the ball to give the slightest glance on an in-swinging cross from Isaac Price and the ball ended up in the back of the net. The consoling pats aimed towards a Hertha defender by his teammates suggested it was an unwanted own goal but it was credited, for the records, to Whitaker.
If there was an element of doubt around that goal then there was none about the second in the 29th minute as powerful Everton #9 Francis Okoronkwo took charge of the ball 40 yards out beat the same defender twice before unleashing a perfect shot from 25 yards out. A stunning effort to make it 2-0!
The third goal came in the 68th minute to effectively settle the contest as Reece Welch won a header at the far post to set up fellow centre back Joe Anderson who expertly applied a left footed finish, a striker’s quality on the ball, not a centre back! 3-0.
Hertha did pull goal back from the penalty spot after Welch was harshly adjudged to have pulled down an attacker following a corner kick. 3-1.
The win was confirmed as late as the 91st minute as who else but prolific goalscoring winger Stanley Mills, on 27 minutes earlier as a substitute stretched his legs from midway inside his own half and motored to the edge of the opposition area. His left foot shot came off the inside of the right hand post for a great individual goal. A great 4-1 win!
Meanwhile there was welcome news for fans of the Under 21s when defender Kyle John signed a new contract which keeps him at the club until 2024.
He has made steady progress since he first arrived as a centre midfielder. His position now is most definitely right back although I have seen him play comfortably on the left of defence, as a wing back or in a back 3 as an auxiliary centre back so he is one versatile player. John has been in the first team matchday squads in recent weeks as a backup defender.
Speaking after his signing, the youngster expressed his happiness -
“I’m so proud to sign this contract for this great club. I’m looking forward to continuing to work hard and getting to where I need to be. With Frank Lampard as the manager, he likes to bring young players through, and I like the way he plays.
“I’ve been here for a long time and Everton means everything to me. It is like home. I’m committed to giving everything I can to give back to the club. This season, I’d like to make my first-team debut and get some minutes. That’s my goal.”
Good luck Kyle!