U23s go four points clear atop PL2

Monday, 18 February, 2019 31comments  |  Jump to last
Everton U23s 2 - 0 Blackburn Rovers U23s
Everton Under-23s beat Blackburn Rovers 2-0 at Southport to move four points clear at the top of Premier League 2 with five games to play.

First-half goals from Bassala Sambou and Fraser Hornby secured the victory and a Man-of-the-Match display from goalkeeper Mateusz Hewelt kept the visitors at bay.

“That's the best I've seen him,” said David Unsworth. “I've told him that. He made saves to keep us in the game and it was a fantastic performance. He gave us a platform to go and win the game. His was one of a number of outstanding performances.”

Blackburn started the brighter of the two teams and Everton were indebted to Hewelt for two fine saves to thwart Joseph Nuttall and John Buckley. The first, from Nuttall, was particularly impressive, Hewelt diving to his right to palm away the effort.

Everton took the lead in the 18th minute and it was a fabulous goal. Hornby did well to hold the ball up on the edge of the Blackburn box and when he teed up Sambou, the striker smashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net.

“It was a fantastic strike,” said Unsworth. “He worked his socks off tonight and he gives us so much. He gets us on the front foot and we like to press from the front.”

The advantage was doubled on the half-hour mark when Rovers keeper Charlie Albinson couldn't hold Anthony Gordon's shot and Hornby followed up to score.

The Everton keeper was in inspired form and his 59th-minute stop to deny Joseph Rankin-Costello had the Rovers player shaking his head in disbelief.

The second period lacked the quality and fluidity of the first. Everton came close to a third goal when Nathan Broadhead's shot just cleared the crossbar and there was a worry for Unsworth when Morgan Feeney limped off midway through the half.

Everton U23s: Hewelt, Feeney (68' Ouzounidis), Astley, Galloway, Gibson (84' Denny), Adeniran, Gordon (76' Foulds), Hornby, Markelo, Sambou, Broadhead.
Subs not Used: Hilton, Mampala.

Reader Comments (31)

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Kevin Prytherch
1 Posted 19/02/2019 at 16:24:22
I wonder how much tactics confuse the modern player rather than benefit the team??

This team usually seems to rely on a traditional 4-4-2, with Broadhead and Gordon being the wide players. They're very successful with it.

I know a couple have commented that the first team should try going back to basics, instead of the 2 centre backs, 2 wing backs, 1 defensive mid, 1 creative mid, 1 Number 10, 1 striker and 2 wingers that we play at the moment. How much simpler does 4-4-2 sound?

Credit to Unsworth again. I reckon that Astley, Feeney, Gibson, Adeniran, Gordon and Hornby might have a shout out of these lot. (Astley and Gordon started out as U18s this year so their progress is excellent.)

David Cooper
2 Posted 19/02/2019 at 18:43:04
Although it is impossible to draw many conclusions from the highlights of the game, David Unsworth is once again building a very impressive U23 team. The season results and leading the Premier League 2 confirm this. Well done, Unsy!

One thing that is clear from the 3+ minutes is that it appears that players are very strong, athletic and determined. One thing that struck me was when Blackburn broke and attacked on 3 or 4 occasions, the Everton back line looked quite exposed, but the speed of the Blues midfielders who were working hard to get back was great to see! The senior team could learn a lot from this!

Sambou's goal was outstanding and Hewelt pulled off at least 3 quality saves to keep Blackburn out. Blackburn had previously done very well against us so this was a BIG result!

Given there is little or nothing to cheer about in this enforced 2-week break, I am a little disappointed in EFC that they don't take the chance to promote the team more! How much would it have cost to make the game available to all, apart from the “members”?

It was just great to see the young Toffees win!

Darren Hind
3 Posted 19/02/2019 at 19:24:54
Fuck me does Young Sambou strike that sweetly.

Still rising when it hits the net.

Well worth a look if you haven't seen it.

Bobby Mallon
4 Posted 19/02/2019 at 21:30:54
Why are these boys not considered for the 1st team?
Jay Wood

5 Posted 19/02/2019 at 21:52:07
Noticeable Adeniran's involvement in both goals.

Excellent harrowing of the Blackburn centre-back, forcing him to cough up the ball to Hornby who sets up Sambou for a cracking finish.

It was Adeniran again making nuisance of himself in their penalty that led to Hornby's poached finish.

Best defence in the league by a country mile and then some: just 8 goals conceded in 17 games –next best is 19.

Five games to go. See it over the line, boys.

Tony Abrahams
6 Posted 19/02/2019 at 22:12:07
Probably because they are not ready yet Bobby?

People are still criticising Davies and Kenny, and they got out of this level of football a couple of years ago. The gap is much bigger than it was when we had proper reserve team football, and it's why quite a few of the squad who won Premier League 2 two years ago, are now out on loan to Championship clubs.

That is a very impressive defensive record, Jay, which really puts the first team's defensive record in the spotlight, especially because they've conceded more than 8 from 17 set-pieces alone!

Ray Roche
7 Posted 19/02/2019 at 22:35:12
I'm sure I read today that Sambou's contract expires this year, anyone else see that?

Tony, it will be interesting to see how many of the loanees return to Everton and get a start in the first team. Pennington is now at struggling Ipswich after failing to set Leeds alight when he was there. Dowell got rave reviews last week from the Sheffield Utd fans but was left out of the next team.

Walsh, the much vaunted youngster and star of the Premier 2 Winning side, is not getting a game at Bristol City. I don't know how Connoly, at Wigan, or Williams at Bolton are doing though.

Mike Gaynes
8 Posted 19/02/2019 at 22:37:08
Correct, Tony. Impressive as these kids are, they're still just kids.

Hadn't seen much of Hewelt, but he really is cat-quick, isn't he? And Sambou's strike was an absolute belter.

Adeniran's quality is obvious, and I would point out that Astley anchored the clean-sheet backline just a few days after his MOTM performance for the U-18s.

John Dean
9 Posted 19/02/2019 at 22:45:18
There's been a noticeable and welcome change in the highlights put up after the last two matches. Previously we were shown goals only but now we're seeing goalmouth action and replays.

It's a game trying to spot which players will be able to play at the highest level. I championed giving Conor McAleny more first team game time and now he can't get a start for Fleetwood.

Tony Abrahams
10 Posted 19/02/2019 at 22:54:40
I think we should have an Under-21 league, and also still, a much more competitive Reserve league.

I'm not sure what has been gained by not having a proper reserve league, and I wonder how many proper games that Baines, Jagielka, and the fit again James McCarthy have had this season?

Mike Gaynes
11 Posted 19/02/2019 at 22:55:52
Ray #7, you are correct, Sambou's contract expires June 30.

Re Connolly and Williams, both are at Bolton, which is headed for relegation.

Connolly recently regained his starting job at defensive mid and scored Bolton's game-winner last week at Birmingham on a brave header off a free kick, his second of the season.

Williams was having a fine season when he was injured in late December and missed 7 games. He returned this past Saturday as a half-time sub in an 0-4 home loss to Norwich.

Sadly, you're right about Liam Walsh. He had one start and a few sub appearances before he was dropped completely from the gameday squad in November. Bristol haven't lost a game since... current winning streak is 7.

John Dean
12 Posted 19/02/2019 at 23:00:46
Ray, Liam Walsh is recovering from injury, having made 6 starts for Bristol City this season prior to his injury at Christmas.

Connolly is starting for Bolton (after his Wigan loan was terminated) and scored for them recently.

Williams came on as sub in Bolton's last game after being out for weeks. He's always been one of the first names on their team sheet.

Ray Roche
13 Posted 19/02/2019 at 23:10:14
Mike, John, thanks for the update. I read a while back that Williams had impressed but then dropped off the radar.
Jay Wood

14 Posted 19/02/2019 at 00:06:13
John @ 9, Conor McAleny was loaned to Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premier League until the end of this season, in the last January transfer window.

Scored for them on his debut against Dundee in a 2-2 draw and played most of the game in a last-minute defeat against Celtic at the weekend.

As you say, it is so hard to predict who is going to make it from the academy. Conor looked as if he had a chance, but was badly set back a few years back when he broke his leg just a few games into a loan at Brentford which put him out for the season and he never really recovered.

I also thought Liam Walsh looked the real deal but, since his move to Bristol, he has barely had a look-in.

Michael Kenrick
15 Posted 20/02/2019 at 06:05:12
It is poignant to read so much unbridled nostalgia from the ageing cadre of fans on here. In this dry spell, numerous threads are chock full of it. All grist to the Everton Museum, no doubt...

I just want to pick on one instance @10 above, Tony calling for an Under-21 league and a return to a Reserve league.

Let's take the Reserve League. You imagine (I'm guessing) that the host of fringe players comprising the bloated Premier League squads who don't get a game from one week to the next could compete against each other at a much higher level? Sounds like a no-brainer. Buying in to the mantra that they would obviously much prefer to play every week to keep match-fit?

I really don't think that's the case. Those days are long gone. I'm sure modern training keeps them on the ball without the need to play uninspiring, barely competitive Reserve football — there's a reason they were called "the Stiffs".

By contrast, the Under-23s seem the right graduate level for players coming through the Academy, as you really need to have made it by that age. And those fringe players could always play if they really wanted to, I'm certain of it. But they very rarely do.

The FA has been increasing the competitive nature with competitions against lower-league first-team sides (Checkatrade Trophy) and European couterparts (Premier League International Cup). You can argue it's not enough. But trying to turn the clock back is certainly not the way.

I know I'm pissing in the wind but let's stop this sad pining for the fjords of old. Time and life move only in one unerring direction: forwards... never backwards.

Ray Roche
16 Posted 20/02/2019 at 08:15:08

Michael, there's nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia. It's the future you know.

And there is precious little to get excited about with EFC at the moment, which is why threads on here resort to slagging off Barret Baxendale for want of something else to discuss. Apart from the usual Moanathon, "Boy's Pen Billy", Moshiri, Moyes,as well as Osman and Hibbert who still get stick after they've retired..

Looking back wistfully to happier times helps keep some of us sane, along with the faint hope that things may one day again reach those heights.

Tony Abrahams
17 Posted 20/02/2019 at 08:24:22
Don’t look in the past, even if supposedly moving forwards might actually be taking you backwards Michael?

The best being those fringe players could really play if they wanted to? Fucking brilliant that is, isn’t it!

John Dean
18 Posted 20/02/2019 at 08:35:17
Thanks, Jay. That does explain why he isn't starting for Fleetwood. And I agree with you about Liam especially after doing so well on loan at Yeovil.

It's always nice to see some of our released young players doing well such as Aristote Nsiala, CB, at Ipswich. After leaving Everton he was released by Southport before building his career. And all clubs have a store of players released too early. Mostly, the managers get the culling right but, as Clarence Worley says, "That's the way they fall, but, sometimes, they fall the other way too."

Alan J Thompson
19 Posted 20/02/2019 at 11:42:57
Michael(#15); Quite right, this nostalgia thing ain't what it used to be so whatever you do, don't grow old. Anyone remember Bally used to say he looked forwards to the monthly, I think, game against the youth team. Oh, bugger, I've gone there again, next we'll be getting rid of that Z Cars thingy.
Michael Kenrick
20 Posted 20/02/2019 at 18:22:37
So Tony, "the fringe players could really play if they wanted to? Fucking brilliant that is, isn’t it!" — could you expand on that thought?

Is it aimed at me (for thinking it) or the players (for clearly not wanting to do it)?

Tony Abrahams
21 Posted 20/02/2019 at 20:18:58
It's aimed at you for saying it, and it's aimed at the club management if this is really the case, Michael.

Nothing to do with nostalgia by the way, but more to do with the fact that this present system of not having real competitive football for first team players, on the fringe of things, or returning from injury, has been a backwards step in my opinion.

John Dean
22 Posted 20/02/2019 at 21:22:50
I used to go to most home Central League games back in the 70s. I don't remember them as being any more competitive than the current Premier League 2. Less competitive, in fact. Yes, occasionally a first team player had a game and they knew how to avoid injury and over-exertion.
Tony Abrahams
23 Posted 20/02/2019 at 21:41:52
I wouldnt disagree with that John, but I’m not sure it would be competitive enough for seasoned professionals, which is perhaps why they very rarely play in this competition?

Everton have just brought in 3 players from overseas, who were all injured when the season began, so other than training, or a little friendly behind closed doors, they have had next to nothing to prepare them for a very different style of football, and this has possibly had them pining for old fjords, once they’ve been thrown into the deep end of English football, and maybe felt like they were pissing into the wind!

Steve Ferns
24 Posted 20/02/2019 at 22:10:07
The reality is our U23s will soon be called Everton B and play in a division between League One and League Two. This has been long mooted.

It'd be great for Everton and all the Premier League clubs to have actual competitive football at a level equivalent to these leagues and then have the opportunity to work their way up to the Championship, meaning no need to loan as many players out.

The reason we haven't seen it implemented here is it'll be the death of the English lower leagues. If Accrington Stanley are reduced to playing Premier League reserve sides, then it is thought they may as well pack in and give up. It's also thought that the Premier League clubs would hoover up more talent and so deny the lower league clubs players, purely to flesh out their B team squads, when these players have no chance of ever making the first team.

It's a debate I think will rumble on for another decade or longer but, before long, it will happen. As stated above, it'll be good for Everton, but probably bad for English football.

Tony Abrahams
25 Posted 20/02/2019 at 22:24:20
As I was standing by the edge, I could see the faces of those who lead, pissing thereselves laughing.
Alan J Thompson
26 Posted 21/02/2019 at 03:53:12
I've thought that entering U-23 teams into something like the Lancashire Combination where clubs like Wigan and South Liverpool used to play would have been worthwhile as it might have been more competitive and an attraction to those clubs. Leagues like this used to be found all over England.

Combine this with a League club's U-23s knock out cup competition on firstly a regional and then two-legged national basis mostly to introduce something more competitive than the present situation.

Steve Croston
27 Posted 21/02/2019 at 09:50:17
I remember the good old days, when nostalgia was proper nostalgia, not like the modern day nostalgia, which barely mentions things from the 60s and 70s.

I say bring back good old fashioned nostalgia and leave this "new fangled" nostalgia to those in their 30s and 40s.

John Dean
28 Posted 21/02/2019 at 10:39:05
It's an idea worthy of further thought, Alan (26), but I'm concerned the greater competition translates into playing against teams of less skillfull players who are older, bigger, stronger and more street-wise which may encourage our young, developing players to adopt a competitive strategy that limits their ambitions.
Alan J Thompson
29 Posted 22/02/2019 at 02:42:38
John (#28); There is that side of it but at U-23, that is 20-22 and some younger, they should be able to handle that side of it and there has been a lot of players of that age come through those leagues, Peter Knowles being the most memorable, Aldridge also springs to mind.
Jason Wilkinson
30 Posted 22/02/2019 at 22:11:49
Bring back the '70 kit, cushions in the main stand, that strange concrete curved bank behind the goals, Higson's bitter and permed hair.
At least three midfield players sporting a 'tache and photos of players sitting on the bonnet of their Ford Capri in the matchday programme.
Isn't nostalgia brilliant? Oh! and half Celtic/Rangers and EFC bobble hats. The special, Bovril that won't dissolve in a plastic cup too hot to hold and The boys pen.
Sell all these foreign players and get a few Scots down here from Dumbarton and Hearts.

Anything I've missed lads?

Ray Roche
31 Posted 22/02/2019 at 22:26:12
Those great pies in the St End, the ones which dribbled down your chin and, if you were lucky, didn't contain a cat's paw.

Winning home and away I had better stop before Michael sees his arse... 😁😁

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