On a slightly milder Tuesday night at Goodison Park, the young Toffees came up against the youth team of League Two Stockport County in this season’s FA Youth Cup. Everton Under-18s had a few more experienced players making their way back from long injuries on their bench and their impact would be needed later in the game.
For anybody who thought it might be a formality to overcome their lower league opponents, they will have changed their minds after the first few minutes when two successive slips by Blues’ Odin Samuels-Smith almost allowed County to take the lead. Everton were thankful to some fine defensive work by goalkeeper Pickford (George not Jordan) and left back Josh Van Schoor.
It was a very even contest with the team in sea-foam green not looking overawed at all. Indeed, the Blues had to wait until the 38th minute to take the lead and it followed an outstanding long dribble across the pitch by central midfielder Harrison Armstrong which resulted in a corner. That corner-kick evaded the grasp of the visiting goalkeeper and fell nicely for Martin Sherif to calmly sidefoot home at the far post, 1-0.
The young Stockport side, clearly relishing the opportunity to play at Goodison, were not to be behind long however as Depeiaza, who had earlier been lucky to escape a red card after kicking out at Everton’s Callum Bates, held off the challenge of young centre back Aled Thomas in a surging run. He levelled with a neat finish past Pickford on the stroke of half-time, 1-1.
The Toffees seemed to have a bit more vigour in their tackling at the start of the second half, typified by a robust sliding tackle by Van Schoor. In spite of some good attacking, creative play, it was a more direct piece of play that saw the lead restored. Thomas’ long ball to the edge of the area was met in the air by midfielder Armstrong and his headed pass was headed home in turn by Sherif for his, and Everton’s second goal, 2-1.
Shortly after that goal, Everton’s lively left winger Joel Catesby, following a driving run, was unfortunately involved in a heavy collision with the advertising hoardings at the Gwladys Street end. Although the hoardings are clearly well padded it would appear that Catesby unluckily connected heavily with some of the supporting structure and there were real fears for his safety as oxygen was administered before he was eventually stretchered off after a 12 minute stoppage.
Understandably, it took a little momentum out of the game and it was not until the 85th minute that substitute midfielder Matthew Apter, who has some Under 21 experience, showed his class. As a Jacob Beaumont-Clark corner was cleared to the edge of the area, Apter expertly drove into the top corner with the goalkeeper rooted. 3-1.
A golden opportunity for Sherif to bag a hat-trick at Goodison beckoned in the 7th minute of added time after busy fellow striker George Morgan was fouled in the penalty area. The young Dutchman unfortunately got under the ball with his spot-kick and cleared the crossbar comfortably.
The goal of the game came in the 10th minute of added time as Pickford played a “Jordan-like” pass into the path of marauding right back George Finney. He found Beaumont-Clark who slipped a ball through for Morgan’s well-timed run and he finished with composure, 4-1.
Leighton Baines’ team will now face Chelsea in the 4th round of the FA Youth Cup. The Blues team has some bright young talent and it is hoped that young Catesby will recover fully in the not too distant future to join them!