On Sunday afternoon in Southport, Paul Tait’s Everton Under-21 team put in a much improved performance following their 5-0 reverse against Wolves last week. In spite of a card-happy referee who showed his yellow card an incredible 10 times, it was an action-packed typical derby game and the Blues looked set to record a long-awaited derby win.
The game started brightly and initially Liverpool were a threat with a great save from Blues’ keeper Billy Crellin and a fine sliding tackle from Reece Welch showing that there was a great deal more resilience than shown in the Midlands game last week.
Having weathered some early pressure it was the Toffees who scored first and what a goal it was. The impressive Einar Iversen won the ball just inside his own half and sprayed a great long ball into the path of flying winger Stan Mills who had made a perfectly timed run to get goalside of the Liverpool defence. Mills nicely lifted a left-footed shot over the advancing goalkeeper. 1-0 and the balance of play during the rest of the first half was definitely in the Blues’ favour.
There were chances galore in the first 45 as Mills’ header was saved, Katia Kouyate glanced a header just wide, Frankie Okoronkwo headed wide when well placed and Mills again poked a shot just wide. The unfortunate moment for the Blues came in the 34th minute when young Norwegian midfielder Iversen, who had been in really good form in the last few games, was unable to carry on and was replaced by substitute Isaac Price. Iversen has had a wretched time with injuries having spent almost 2 years out. Doubly disappointing is that he has just recently been fulfilling that early promise showing himself to be a very capable defensive midfielder as well as his normal box to box role.
The second half, in truth, belonged more to Liverpool although they created very few clear cut chances and when they did they found Crellin in good form. Although the balance of power had noticably shifted, the Blues created or were gifted numerous chances to double the lead and probably secure the 3 points. The real gilt-edged chance was presented to Okoronkwo in the 55th minute by giant Reds defender Koumetio who inexplicably passed straight to the Blues centre forward 30 yards out. Whether it was surprise or a dip in confidence, the normally lethal finishing deserted him as he took too long and fired too close to the Reds keeper.
The referee seemed determined to punish any foul with a yellow card and in the 85th minute after a foul on Reds’ dangerman Ben Doak, he produced a second yellow for 16 year old left back Ishe Samuels-Smith. That ensured a weekend to remember and at the same time forget as he was named on the first team bench on Saturday and then harshly red-carded on the Sunday.
To compound matters with the sending off, several Liverpool players somewhat petulantly pushed Samuels-Smith encouraging him to go off the field at the nearest point which was directly opposite the tunnel. Presumably that petulance was with the aim of getting on with the game quickly to try to capitalise on their new-found numerical advantage. This act of interference rebounded comically as the referee refused to restart the game for about a minute and a half as Samuels-Smith trudged slowly the long way around the perimeter of the pitch to the tunnel.
That karma was however short-lived as Liverpool equalised with two minutes to go as a very lucky bounce enabled a Liverpool forward to get past Welch and square the ball to Max Woltman 2 yards out from goal and he made no mistake. 1-1.
After the game manager Paul Tait was philosophical about the result.
“I’m proud of the players, I thought they were excellent. From the first minute, we dominated the chances. I think anyone who watched the game could see that we could’ve scored four or five.”
“We lost Ishe (Samuels-Smith). I won’t have a go at him because I thought he was magnificent. Him and Ben Doak; two great young players going toe-to-toe was great to watch. But, he’ll learn from it. He’s only 16, so he’ll learn from that.
“We’re obviously disappointed to draw, but we’ve done brilliantly today.”
The Blues are next back in Premier League 2 action on Monday 24th April at Leicester City.