Everton Under-21s kicked off their game against Leicester City on Monday night exactly a week ahead of one of the biggest games in the club’s great history. The seniors visit the East Midlands next Monday and if they can produce anything near the level of performance that their younger clubmates did, then they will have nothing to fear.
Paul Tait once again went with a well-balanced 4-2-3-1 formation this time deploying a central midfield duo of young Jenson Metcalfe with team captain Sean McAllister. Also brought into the line up was jet-heeled right back Roman Dixon.
The Toffees got off to a flyer in the 4th minute when Metcalfe launched a good long ball into the path of Frankie Okoronkwo on the shoulder of the Foxes’ rearguard. He controlled the ball well under pressure and beat the Foxes’ giant 6’7” goalkeeper Odunze with a low left foot drive. 1-0.
We didn’t have long to wait for the second goal as the Blues were in full control and playing some delightful football. A neat move down the right wing in the 20th minute saw Okoronkwo and Stan Mills combine with the latter’s left foot cross meeting the run of Halid Djankpata on the edge of the area. He read the ricochet between him and his Leicester marker perfectly and thrashed the ball home high past the goalkeeper. 2-0 and thoroughly deserved.
A typical lightning fast run 2 minutes later by the marauding Dixon which saw him run from inside his own half to the opposition penalty area almost brought about another chance but, 5 minutes after that, the irrepressible Blues got their third. Great work by McAllister and Katia Kouyate on the left wing saw Djankpata get a headed chance and although the ‘keeper saved, it was the alert Mills who was on the spot to fire home. 3-0.
Just when it looked like the scoreline could get embarrassing the clear cut chances from the first half-hour dried up a little and the half ended with the Blues still well in control.
Not unexpectedly, the Foxes came out with a lot more bite in the second half and the unlikeliest of comebacks suddenly became a serious thought when they got a penalty after 58 minutes. Kouyate was adjudged to have pulled a player back although there were strong claims for handball by a Leicester player immediately beforehand. Although Zan-Luk Leban guessed the right way he was unable to keep Maswanhise’s spot kick out. 3-1.
A Leicester City forward missed a sitter from one yard out and Leban then had to produce a great save in the 73rd minute to keep the 2 goal lead as the tide had definitely turned.
Lively second half Blues’ substitute Liam Higgins restored the 3 goal gap in the 78th minute after being played in by a neat Okoronkwo flick. His near post shot beat the Leicester keeper a little too easily but they all count! 4-1.
As the Blues had regained some of the control they had in the first half, Higgins again went close as his shot hit the crossbar in the closing minutes and there was still time in this entertaining game for Leban to produce another good save. It ended 4-1, a very satisfying performance and result.
Next up is the penultimate game of a long but hugely entertaining season. Arsenal are the visitors to Haig Avenue Southport on Friday 28th April.