The last month or so has seen a marked change in Leighton Baines Everton Under 18s team. Although results will show three defeats, a goalless draw and recently, two good wins, 3-0 against Sunderland and more recently a 2-1 away victory against West Brom, the key positive is that the side has at least found their shooting boots again after several blanks!
Most recently, the youngsters unfortunately suffered a 3-1 home reverse against Derby County last Saturday. Joel Catesby was the Blues scorer in the second half although they were unable to level scores after the young Rams had established a two goal lead through Gill and Osong. Osayande added a third for the visitors 4 minutes from time.
A more positive showing took place the previous Saturday in the Premier League U18 Cup competition. The young Toffees had to wait until the 54th minute to make the breakthrough and you are unlikely to see a more stone-wall penalty in any match for the rest of this season. The marauding Blues forward George Morgan accelerated into the left hand side of the penalty area and was totally wiped out by a mis-timed slide tackle. VAR not required for that one! Morgan dusted himself off and coolly stroked the ball home low to the goalkeeper’s right hand side. 1-0
It was 4 minutes before the end of normal time that the Blues looked like they had definitely secured the win when, after a sweeping move involving some nice interplay on the left wing between Joel Catesby and Everton substitute Kean Wren, it was the former who jinked across the edge of the area. He avoided a few clumsy challenges to fire home right-footed to the goalkeeper’s left. Striker Martin Sherif had probably obscured the goalkeeper’s view of the ball but he was clearly onside. 2-0.
West Brom made the closing stages more anxious than they should have been after the Baggies’ substitute Divine Onyemachi rounded off a fine move, George Pickford in the Everton goal left helpless by the finish and defender Joshua van Schoor just a second to late to make a goal-line clearance. 2-1 is how it ended.
This season, perhaps more than ever, has seen Leighton Baines working with primarily first year academy players and schoolboys like Wren who impressed on Saturday. Many of the boys who might have expected to feature at Under 18 level this season have been making the step up to Paul Tait’s Under 21 team. That’s given opportunitites to the likes of several 16 and 17 year olds and it looks like they’re not only finding form, they’re finding their feet quickly at this level. It can be tough and demoralising I guess at this tender age as the team has ground to make up as they languish bottom in the Premier League Under 18 (North).
Next up is a home League game at Finch Farm on Saturday 4th November. Opposition is Leeds United.