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Double victory for Everton youth sides

Some winter cheer for Paul Tait and Leighton Baines

Everton U21 v AS Monaco U21: Premier League International Cup
Sean McAllister is congratulated by Okoronkwo, Dobbin and Djankpata
Photo by Emma Simpson - Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images

It’s been a while since both of Everton’s young teams have celebrated victories within the same week but that’s what happened this week for the Under 21s at Walton Hall Park and the Under 18s at Finch Farm, both games in Cup competitions.

On a cold Tuesday night in Walton, Paul Tait’s team took on the French side AS Monaco in the Premier League International Cup. They scored as early as the 2nd minute when a long clearance from the Blues’ penalty area was claimed by Francis Okoronkwo as he dominated his two markers in the air to break clear. Although the AS Monaco goalkeeper made a block on the edge of the area from Okoronkwo’s shot, it was the chasing pack of Everton players who looked to take advantage. Indeed it was the versatile Sean McAllister, playing as #10 on Tuesday, who expertly bent the ball around the stranded goalkeeper for a welcome early lead. 1-0.

The second goal came just after the half-hour mark, following some intricate work at the back between goalkeeper Billy Crellin, Mackenzie Hunt and Eli Campbell which released Kyle John in the left back position. From midway inside his own half, John carried the ball forward for 70 yards before releasing Okoronkwo who measured his cutback from the left for the inrushing McAllister once again. The young Northern Irishman made no mistake from 6 yards. 2-0. He seems to have that happy knack of being in the right place at the right time.

The Blues were pegged back in the 75th minute when the French side managed to weave their way into the Blues’ box and Etonde evaded Campbell’s challenge to fire high over Crellin’s shoulder from close range. 2-1.

It looked briefly that all of the good work would be undone when just a minute later, following a fast break down Everton’s left flank, a cross into the heart of the defence was not cleared effectively by Hunt’s weaker right foot. As the ball dropped kindly for Benama, his controlled shot beat Crellin, rather uncomfortably, low down at his near post. 2-2.

If Hunt was disappointed by his unfortunate contribution to the French side’s equaliser, he’d have been delighted and no doubt surprised at his good fortune 6 minutes later. His firmly struck inswinging corner with his favoured left foot was poorly defended at the near post by both the French goalkeeper and one of his defenders. The ball went straight in to restore the Toffees’ lead. 3-2.

Three minutes later and the match was settled by a really good team goal started by Lewis Dobbin. He carried the ball on a trademark enterprising run from deep inside his own half to the edge of the opposition area before skilfully feeding substitute Jacob Beaumont-Clark. The young forward held the ball up well under pressure from 2 defenders before returning the ball to Dobbin who in turn fed Okoronkwo for the big striker to coolly slot home. 4-2.

Paul Tait was delighted after the match -

“It was a great game, lots of quality and end-to-end with both teams really going at it. We managed to get two goals up in the first half but then the momentum changed in the second half. They got at us and eventually got two goals, which they probably deserved.

“As well as it being a good game, the character and resilience we showed was really good. I was delighted Frankie got his goal because he worked tirelessly and he’s been playing really well without getting his goals.

“When it went to 2-2, somebody told me to go five at the back! But I still felt we had a goal in us and I wanted to see how we would react to the challenge and what we had left in the tank. I was delighted with the response. They are a very good side with a nice way of playing with some good individuals.”

Interesting in those latter comments that the U21’s boss looked to test the character of his young team rather than “shut up shop”. Pleasing to see!

Meanwhile, 3 days earlier, Leighton Baines’ Under 18 team had taken on Peterborough United in the Premier League Under 18 Cup.

It wasn’t until the 74th minute that the Blues took the lead and it was a well-crafted goal. Right back George Finney cut inside to the edge of the opposition area and fed young Dutch striker Martin Sherif who did well to retain possession. The ball was recycled wide to Jacob Beamont-Clark whose fine cross was met by the head of striker George Morgan. The young Welshman showed plenty of guile in applying a gentle nudge on his marker before applying the finishing touch with his head. 1-0.

The second goal came in the 4th minute of added time after a Blues’ attack broke down with what might actually have been a penalty claim when Martin Sherif was upended on the edge of the area. As the Peterborough side attacked with pace, centre back Aled Thomas made a great interception and the ball fell to the in-form winger Joel Catesby. The Birkenhead-born youngster had raced to get back to support his defence and despite the late stage of the match, he raced forward with purpose again, feeding Sherif who played wide to Beaumont-Clark. He took a touch before launching an unstoppable right foot cross-shot into the far corner of the net. 2-0 and richly deserved.

Next up for the youth teams is the Under 18s travelling to Nottingham Forest on Saturday 2nd December while the Under 21s are at home on Monday 4th December to Southampton.

Great to see the goals and the character from both teams!