Devine seals point for Under-21s at Everton
Everton 1-1 Spurs (Premier League 2)
Fri 17 February 2023, 21:13|Tottenham Hotspur
Alfie Devine's first league goal of the season secured a point for our Under-21s at Everton on Friday night - although you felt we could and should have taken more after a dominant display against the Toffees.
Having gifted the hosts the lead inside two minutes, we took a while to get going in Southport but after finding our rhythm mid-way through the first half, we deservedly levelled when Devine - on the bench for the first team in Milan on Tuesday - flicked home Romaine Mundle's free-kick at the near post. We had a number of chances to win it thereafter, but Devine, Kallum Cesay, Jude Soonsup-Bell and Mundle all found Everton goalkeeper Zan-Luk Leban in fine form.
Although frustrated at not being able to find a winner, there were still a number of positives to take for Wayne Burnett's side, who remain unbeaten since the turn of the year.
We got off to the worst possible start when Josh Keeley's miscued clearance went straight to Stanley Mills who ran on and hammered it back beyond the keeper from 18 yards out with only a minute and 45 seconds gone, but from the 20-minute mark we began to exert ourselves on the game and created a number of openings and opportunities amid a sustained spell of pressure. Cesay had a strong penalty appeal waved away after going to ground under Nathan Patterson's tackle from behind, Soonsup-Bell fired just off-target before the same player produced a sublime flick from Yago Santiago's equally-clever pass to set up Devine for a shot-on-the-turn in the box which crept fractionally past the far post in our best chance up until that point.
We kept up the pressure, though, Cesay getting the ball out from under his feet in the six-yard box but seeing his effort blocked by goalkeeper Leban before the breakthrough finally arrived in the 29th minute, Devine meeting Mundle's right-sided free-kick with a glancing header that flew inside the near post. Devine should have doubled his tally 60 seconds later as we suddenly sprung forward at the edge of the box, but his right-footed shot from a central position was saved by Leban with his legs, while at the other end, Keeley was relieved to see Francis Okoronkwo fire over his unguarded net from the edge of our box in a rare opening for the home side.
Leban produced two fine saves to prevent us from taking the lead in the run-up to half-time, first tipping over Cesay's volley from a central position and then denying Soonsup-Bell at the back post after Everton failed to clear their lines from a corner. But while we continued to control the game in the second period, chances weren't as frequent and it was the hosts who almost stole in front once more when Mills' left-footed curler flew just wide. Substitute George Abbott capped an impressive performance with an angled effort that dipped onto the roof of the net, while Mundle's shot after coming in off the left flank was beaten away by Leban in the last few minutes as we sought a winner.
'We probably should have come away with a win'
Under-21s Coach Wayne Burnett was pleased with the manner of our equaliser, with the squad having recently benefitted from some input from first team set-piece coach Gianni Vio.
"It's something that we've worked on," he said. "We've been fortunate enough to work with our first team set-piece specialist, Gianni, which has been fantastic and we certainly looked threatening tonight. We could have possibly scored one or two more goals from those set-pieces as well.
"In all honesty, I'm a little disappointed with the result. We probably should have come away with a win, the players are disappointed and I think the only thing we didn't do was score more goals. After the first 10 or 15 minutes we improved and dominated the game, we got into our rhythm and after that I thought there would only be one winner. We're disappointed that we haven't capitalised on some of the opportunities that we had."
Everton 1-1 Spurs (Premier League 2)
Everton: Leban, Patterson (Apter 64), Samuels-Smith, Welch, Campbell, Garner (Bates 72), Higgins (Dixon 85), Mills (Kouyate 85), Okoronkwo, Price (c), Hunt. Substitute (not used): Graham.
Spurs: Keeley, Robson, Paskotsi, Fagan-Walcott, Lyons-Foster, Craig (c), Santiago, Cesay, Soonsup-Bell (Williams 85), Devine (Abbott 64), Mundle. Substitutes (not used): Krasniqi, Mathurin, Sayers.
Goals: Everton - Mills 2; Spurs - Devine 29.
Yellow cards: Everton - Samuels-Smith 51; Lyons-Foster 90+3.
Referee: Scott Jackson.
Venue: Haig Avenue, Southport.
Weather: Cloudy, mild, eight degrees.