Under-23s lose out at Everton
Everton 1-0 Spurs (Premier League 2)
Mon 24 January 2022, 21:33|Tottenham Hotspur
Lewis Dobbin's header on the stroke of half-time consigned our Under-23s to a first defeat in nine league games at Everton on Monday night.
After seeing two good chances slip away in the closing stages of the first period as Dane Scarlett and Alfie Devine were denied one-on-one by goalkeeper Harry Tyrer, we fell behind when Dobbin netted from Toffees debutant Nathan Patterson's cross and from there, we were left frustrated.
The second half was a tough battle with no real chances for us until the last few minutes, goalkeeper Josh Oluwayemi forced into a flurry of good saves just before the hour mark to prevent the hosts from extending their lead.
When we did finally foray into the Everton box late on, substitute Max Robson went close with a couple of headers, but it wasn't to be.
Robson was one of three players making their first Premier League 2 appearance of the season for us, long-term injury absentee Dermi Lusala putting in a full shift at right-back and Jamie Bowden coming into central midfield after spending the first half of the campaign on loan at Oldham. There was also a first start since October for centre-half Marqes Muir and he impressed with a solid performance, seeing a lot of the ball in the opening stages and staying calm whenever called upon to thwart Everton's advances. He also did brilliantly to stick with Dobbin to prevent him from breaking through and doubling his side's lead in the second period.
Jack Clarke and Scarlett got into some good areas in the early going but couldn't fashion anything meaningful while Everton's Ellis Simms evaded the attentions of Malachi Fagan-Walcott but was denied by the legs of Oluwayemi on the 20-minute mark in Everton's only real chance before their goal. At the other end, Lusala teed up Harvey White to send Scarlett through on Tyrer with a clever ball over the top on 32 minutes but his angled effort was saved by the keeper, who then just about dealt with the second ball as Scarlett continued to apply pressure. We had an even better opportunity nine minutes later when Bowden's excellent cross-field ball put Devine in on goal, but he was left kicking himself after firing straight at the keeper.
We were made to pay for those misses on 44 minutes when right-back Patterson, a recent high-profile signing from Rangers, crossed for Dobbin to send a header sailing into the top corner.
Oluwayemi and Muir were largely to thank for us not falling further behind in a difficult second half, the goalkeeper denying Isaac Price and Dobbin before Muir stuck brilliantly to the latter on the counter, managing to deflect his eventual shot wide. Oluwayemi was there again on 58 minutes with a string of stops in quick succession, first keeping out Jarrad Branthwaite's header with a superb flying save and then standing firm as Lewis Warrington and Ryan Astley had shots, the danger finally over when Dobbin blazed over the bar.
The hosts had the better of the second half overall, Fagan-Walcott also stepping in to defend well when needed, while a rasping shot from Warrington took a slight deflection and cannoned off the post and across the face of goal five minutes from time - thankfully for us, it didn't cross the line. Our best chance followed two minutes later when a high searching ball from Lusala out on the right found Robson arriving at the far post, but his header was blocked by Astley. It all became frantic in stoppage time as Fagan-Walcott ploughed through into the box and set up Robson, who was dispossessed by Astley while he was on the floor, with Robson then sending a near-post header from fellow substitute Romaine Mundle into the side netting. There was still time for Muir to have a shot after Bowden's deep free-kick was cleared to him inside the box, but his effort was charged down at the expense of a corner and there went our last realistic chance to take something from a disappointing night at Southport's Haig Avenue.
'We have to do better with what we're exposed to'
Under-23s Coach Wayne Burnett said: "In the first half we had some very good chances and got into some good positions but couldn't capitalise. I thought we dominated the game in the first half, the second half was closer and they probably shaded it with the slightly better chances but it's disappointing that we didn't come away with something. We spoke beforehand about the amount of possession that we'd potentially have, the importance of being focussed and aware of any attacks coming from us losing possession and that was exactly what happened. It was a good finish in the end from them but it was disappointing to concede, knowing that we'd spoken at length and in detail about the potential problems that they might pose to us. Games against Everton are always highly-competitive, hard-fought games and in order to win football matches, you have to play to your strengths. We have to do better with what we're exposed to and for the majority of the game we did that well, but on that one occasion we didn't."
On the performance of centre-back Muir, Wayne added: "I thought Marqes was outstanding. Playing against Ellis Simms, who has played in Everton's first team in the Premier League, he showed real aggression out of possession, a real calmness on the ball and he used the ball very well. I was really pleased for him because he's not played in quite some time but he acquitted himself very well."
Everton 1-0 Spurs (Premier League 2)
Everton: Tyrer, Patterson (Quirk 61), John, Welch, Astley (c), Branthwaite (Anderson 61), Mills, Warrington, Simms, Price, Dobbin (Hughes 71). Substitutes (not used): Leban, Butterfield.
Spurs: Oluwayemi, Lusala, Lavinier, Bowden, Muir, Fagan-Walcott, Clarke (Mundle 76), White (c), Scarlett, Devine (Williams 84), Santiago (Robson 76). Substitutes (not used): Lo-Tutala, Sayers.
Goal: Everton - Dobbin 44.
Yellow cards: Everton - Welch 88, Mills 90+5; Spurs - Clarke 61, Fagan-Walcott 66.
Referee: Lewis Smith.
Venue: Haig Avenue, Southport.
Weather: Cloudy, misty, one degree.