If there’s been a feast of games at Under 21 level then there’s been a relative famine for the younger tier within Everton’s youth ranks. The game last weekend was the first in three weeks since the young Blues had been on the road again at Derby County in late January.
A turnaround on the road! #EFCU18 #U18PL pic.twitter.com/ensCxV5TTH— Everton Academy (@EvertonAcademy) February 20, 2023
So, Saturday saw the Blues making the short trip to Lancashire outfit Blackburn Rovers. It turned out to be an exciting encounter with a beautifully taken goal by the Blues or should I say the “Pinks”. The Toffees got off to a poor start when they were unable to clear a 5th minute corner. As the ball was recycled across the Blues penalty area, Rovers’ midfielder Shorrocks played a very clever ball low into the run of centre back Atcheson who just beat Blues’ ‘keeper Eail Hanbury to the ball to prod home. 0-1.
Just before half-time Everton got themselves back into the game straight from a Hanbury goalkick which managed to bounce into the path of Jacob Beaumont-Clark. It was his neat touch and the slightest of lay-offs from leading goalscorer Martin Sherif that saw left winger Isaac Heath slot home at the far post. 1-1 and some smart decisive thinking by Everton’s young attackers.
We had to wait until the 80th minute for the winning goal but what a great team goal it was created from our own penalty area involving 5 different players and without a Blackburn player getting a single touch on the ball. Firstly, centre back Odin Samuels-Smith carried the ball from his own penalty area to the halfway line where a very nice left footed ball from Jenson Metcalfe found Sherif in the penalty area. The young Dutchman’s fine hold up play saw him find Shae Cahill on the edge of the area and he unselfishly laid the ball wide to fellow substitute Troy Smikle-James and his finish into the top corner of the net was sublime. The goal drew warm applause from watching manager Leighton Baines and rightly so, 2-1 and that’s how it finished.
All the goals from Saturday's six-goal thriller at Derby! ✨#U18PL #EFCU18 pic.twitter.com/iTeBxnFce4— Everton Academy (@EvertonAcademy) January 30, 2023
The Derby County fixture had seen the Blues trailing 0-3 until 20 minutes from time after Derby’s talented forward Jaydan Davidson had scored a very nice hat-trick of goals, all well-taken and fairly unstoppable. The 70th minute is when the Blues found their own hat-trick hero in Martin Sherif. Fine wing play by Jacob Beaumont-Clark ended with his cross finding Sherif who produced a smart downward header in the centre of the area. 1-3 and the Blues’ tails were up.
In the 88th minute Sherif pulled it back to 2-3 as he coolly sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from a penalty kick as he slotted the ball left footed into the corner of the net.
In the 4th minute of stoppage time the comeback was complete and more excellent play saw a long crossfield pass from Isaac Heath find Troy Smikle-James and his run saw the ball land at the feet of Beaumont-Clark, a little lay off and Sherif fired home right-footed to complete a “true” hat-trick. 3-3 and the ecstatic celebrations were thoroughly merited!
Baines’ young squad which has lost the likes of Frankie Okoronkwo, Matty Apter, Callum Bates and Ishe Samuels-Smith to the Under 21s is clearly finding its feet and playing some delightful football and although it’s certainly not a one man band, having a goalscorer like Sherif in form at any level definitely helps.
Post-match, Baines’ assistant Driscoll was keen to heap praise on the clinical nature of Sherif’s Derby County performance: “We have worked a lot on his back-to-goal play,” he said. “Finding a way for him to have an impact when he isn’t getting a big supply of chances.”
“But scoring-wise, big credit to him today, he has been given three chances today and took all three of them.”
That hold up play by Sherif was particularly evident in the winning goal at the Blackburn game. Let’s hope his progress and that of the team continues at this encouraging rate!
Next up for the team is a game on Saturday at Finch Farm against Middlesborough.