This game marked the first Under 23s fixture since a couple of mainstays of the team — Ellis Simms and Lewis Warrington — left on loan, and with Jarrad Branthwaite, Tyler Onyango and Lewis Dobbin with the first team, David Unsworth had a weakened squad to choose from. It was a big opportunity for Francis Okoronkwo in particular as the youth team hotshot lined up in place of Simms. Billy Crellin, the new deadline-day goalkeeper signing from Fleetwood Town, was on the bench.
In truth, the exciting Okoronkwo had a quiet game but so did a lot of the Everton team. In the first half they struggled to cope with the conditions despite having the so-called advantage of the wind behind them. Stray and over-hit passes by both sides were commonplace in a game that was far from the spectacle we had hoped for and Everton struggled to find a rhythm.
The Blues did manage to get a few shots on target courtesy of firstly Isaac Price then Stanley Mills before they eventually went ahead in the 23rd minute. Having wasted several opportunities to get the ball into Leicester’s penalty area from corners, Rhys Hughes launched a good free kick to the far post and centre back Joe Anderson forced the ball home. It was a set-piece remarkably similar to the first team goal scored by centre back Jarrad Branthwaite from Anthony Gordon’s free kick against Chelsea back in mid-December. 1-0 to Everton.
In a blow to the young Blues they lost Mills to injury after 35 minutes and although his replacement Jenson Metcalfe played very well indeed, it was a disruption to their midfield engine room they could probably have done without.
Tom Cannon did really well in the 41st minute to turn quickly and get a powerful shot away but it was probably the last serious goal threat the Blues created in the game. It tells you about Leicester’s dominance in the second half as they managed the conditions much better and while Everton struggled even more facing the wind, Leicester coped well with the wind behind them.
Leicester equalised in the 55th minute as the very impressive South African forward Leshabela showed great control to expertly take a long ball first time and ease the ball past Harry Tyrer in the Blues goal. 1-1.
After 76 minutes Leicester sealed the victory following a set piece. We saw Tyrer make a fantastic save from a downward header only to see the ball bounce off the post straight onto the covering Everton full back Eli Campbell and the ball bobbled off him into the net for an own goal he could do little about.
Tyrer came to the rescue again after 81 minutes to keep the scoreline down as he reacted brilliantly to a close range shot following a misjudgment in the Toffees defence. The highlights of the second half were the mesmerising runs and ball control from Leicester’s 17 year old substitute Will Alves who looks an amazing prospect and led the Blues defence a merry dance on several occasions.
There were glimpses of tigerish, almost Wayne Rooney-like, play from 17 year old Metcalfe and some fine stops from Tyrer but David Unsworth’s men will have better days than this. Match ended 2-1 to Leicester, with Everton now sitting in 9th place in the table out of 14 teams.