It’s becoming a bit of a pleasant experience watching Paul Tait’s Everton Under 21 team this season. On Friday night at the Pure Stadium, Southport, they did miss the opportunity to top the fledgling Premier League 2 table as they recovered from being two goals down to draw 2-2 but it’s the good signs and player performances that are the encouraging things for Evertonians to see right now.
At the head of the attack there’s a 19 year old striker with an explosive shot and a very explosive name that is doing damage to the opposition goal-nets this season. Tom Cannon, at a time when the club as a whole is searching for a natural goalscorer, has really upped his game this season. To be fair we did see glimpses of his ability towards the back end of last season but he has visibly gone up a notch under the guidance of Paul Tait. The brace he scored against a good Manchester United side on Friday took his total to a very impressive 4 goals in 3 games.
The goals he scores and the positions he gets into are all refreshingly different. He’s not the finished article right now, he still can lose composure and slash through the ball when a little more patience might reap dividends but a certain Brazilian we had for the last 4 seasons also had those same traits and he wasn’t bad was he? When you’re a natural goalscorer you expect them all to go in! There is no doubt though that the diamond that is within him is getting more polished each time he steps out at this level.
To focus on one player after the performance tonight is unfair however, there was a real togetherness. The team lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Charlie Whitaker playing off the aforementioned Cannon. It was a solid unit and workmanlike which are things you expect from a team in Blue but this team is also nicely balanced and plays attractive football.
Uncharacteristically, the Blues did fall behind in the 10th minute. They were not aggressive enough at this stage and some passive defending allowed a rather tame effort by Jurado from the edge of the area to find its way into the Blues net. 0-1.
Things got worse before they got better. Although the Toffees had already created a couple of half chances for Cannon they fell further behind in the 27th minute when a long punt upfield caught out the otherwise superb Blues defence. Kyle John and Reece Welch were not decisive enough and a neat finish saw the United attacker Hansen-Aaroen lobbing the ball over Goalkeeper Zan-Luk Leban. A friustrating 0-2.
The pressing that United had shown at this stage was impressive but the Blues displayed a greater sense of urgency and physicality themselves in the remaining 20 minutes or so of the first half. Just a minute after United’s second goal we saw a fantastic acrobatic “scorpion” shot from Cannon superbly saved by the United goalkeeper. A minute later and yes, you guessed it, the Blues pressure told as Whitaker played a neat short ball from the edge of the area into the path of Cannon and he blasted he ball home powerfully from 15 yards. 1-2.
Great play 8 minutes later saw Cannon cleverly head back across himself and into the United net to equalise. The cross from left back Mackenzie Hunt for the goal was simply excellent. 2-2.
The 3rd goal in this contest was only ever going to come from the home side and when Sean McAllister had his shot saved in the first minute of the second half we thought it was just a matter of time. Sadly that reward simply never came along. The Blues were consistently the better team in the second half whereas it had been more even in the first.
In spite of some excellent (and lung-busting) performances by Kyle John and Lewis Warrington especially, a mixture of bad luck and good goalkeeping kept Paul Tait’s men at bay. It ended all square at 2-2 following an entertaining, sometimes feisty game.
Early on Sunday Cannon signed a new three-year-deal which keeps him at the club through till 2025 and gives the youngster a chance to establish himself at the youth level and go on to bigger things.
Speaking after signing the deal, Cannon said -
“It means a lot to sign this new deal. I want to really kick on now and I’m excited about what the future holds.
“Everton is a very good place to develop. I’ve got the right people around me and they help me every day. The coaching has been great here and I’m very grateful for all the time they’ve given me.
“I feel, over the past year, I feel I’ve developed more physically and I’m looking forward to progressing even more. Hopefully I can keep scoring and playing well and get more involved with the First Team. There’s nothing more I want to do than to play for Everton.”
It would certainly be a surprise if Cannon is not in the squad for the Carabao Cup game on Tuesday at nearby Fleetwood Town, considering the paucity of striking options available to Frank Lampard. I am sure I am not the only one wondering whether a few of these players will get a chance to show that they can step up. On the evidence of this game some players have done themselves no harm at all!