Our resident youth team reporter, Â´alan ballÂ´ has again put pen to paper to give us an account of how EvertonÂ´s under 18Â´s fared against Aston Villa…
Everton Line up, Davies ,Browning, Bidwell (c), Hammar, ( Thomas 15) Dier, Barrow, (Molyneux 70) McAleney , Donegan, Kinsella, Forrester(Higgins 88), Garbutt. Unused Subs Roberts(GK),Waring
Aston Villa Line up, Barrett, Nelson-Addy,Caira, Melvin, Bryan, Williams, Graham, Burke, Taylor, Johnson (c), Grealish. Subs: Jenkins, Coton, Drennan, Serrano, Robinson
Ref Mr P Dermott Assistants K Lambert & J Simpson 4th Official G Johnson
Black clouds loomed over Finch Farm as Aston Villa won the toss as both teams were to compete for a place in the final at the Reebok with Fulham or Sunderland being the opposition.
Sir Philp Carter and Mr Moyes snr were in attendance along with the Everton backroom staff offering their support. Lundstram and Hope were still away with their country in Serbia but brought in Conor McAleney to bolster the squad.
The game was brought forward from a 7pm to a noon kick off as Aston Villa are having an awards ceremony this evening.
Everton kicked off attacking the Finch Lane end with a very strong wind in there favour, but the visitors were the first to show signs of domination as in the early stages as they threatened down their right hand side but Everton contained any early pressure as both teams knocked the ball around well hoping to not to make any mistakes. On the 15 minute mark a big blow for Everton as Johann Hammar went up for a ball with Connor Taylor only to land awkwardly and had to have treatment which lasted for a couple of minutes but the physio indicated to the bench once Hammar was on his feet to see if he could run it off, This only lasted briefly as a Â´buggyÂ´ was brought on to take Hammar off and was to play no further part in this tie. Neil Dewsnip made an immediate change by bringing on number 12 Adam Thomas on 18 minutes and Everton had to reshuffle the pack by putting Jake Bidwell in the centre with Eric Dier.
Thomas made an early impression with a strong run down the right and beating his man Caira and delivered a lovely flighted cross only for the strong wind to take it over the bar. Forrester was the next to have an effort when his strike was forced out for a corner by Barrett in the Villa goal and give Everton a corner and hoping we could take advantage of the conditions, but the threat of danger was cleared and now Villa tried their luck with an attack down the left hand side by Grealish and this time Everton dispersed of the threat. But a big blow for the hosts as on 25 minutes Villa took the lead with a well taken goal from Graham Burke but Everton must be disappointed with the way they defended it. Burke picked up the ball inside the final third and ran with the Everton defence backing off until Burke saw the goal in his sights and hit it from range giving Davies who had very little to do before hand nothing to do but to pick the ball out of the net as Villa celebrated.
The lead was short lived as Everton wanted so much to get themselves back into this game with an equaliser 5 minutes later when the ball was knocked long for Tom Donegan to chase and kept his head and hit a lovely ball past Barrett. Villa reacted on 33 minutes as Davies made a great save and again as the ball rebounded to the captain Daniel Johnson who this time thankfully fired over.
Everton were getting the ball out to Thomas who tormented his marker with a series of strong attacking runs. But Everton took advantage on 36 minutes when the blues attacked down the left and the ball was played into the box and bouncing around the area with the visitors failing to clear when Kinsella managed to get to the ball and hit it which seemed to take a deflection off a defender and find itÂ´s way into the net and give Everton the lead for the first time in the match. Dier managed to get a touch which didnÂ´t trouble the visiting keeper on the stroke of half time but Mr Dermott added a couple of minutes of injury time on for HammarÂ´s injury as Everton left the field at half time with a slender goal advantage.
The second 45 minutes got underway with Everton opting for for a 4-4-2 formation and were hoping to hold onto that lead with Villa now having that strong wind in their favour but Everton carried on where they left off the first half with McAleney getting down the left and showing an appetite that Everton wanted this victory with some teasing runs and crosses also showing a lot of determination to win the ball at all costs to keep possession and keep the Villa defenders busy.
Garbutt took a free kick only for the ball to sail over the bar and Jordan Barrow was reminiscent of Rory Delap style throw in as Everton did all they could to put Villa under pressure. Nelson-Addy the Villa right back tested Davies with an effort the Davies held comfortably at the post.
McAleny made an excellent challenge as Villa once again threatened and Villa were now turning up the heat when another attack lead to a cross down the right only for a head to connect and go over the bar and give the junior toffees a reprieve. On 55 minutes McAleney played a delightful ball to the path of Forrester but Barrett was alert and made a good stop from the attack. The midfielders were busy with some good battles with Donegan and his opposite number Taylor fighting for everything they could.
With an hour gone Garbutt set up another move and again Forrester read the pass but the opportunity went by as Everton were keen to add to their 2 goals and steal the match as this game was far from over. Everton were well on top as this time Donegan had a shot and Villa cleared their decks, Mc Aleny and Thomas changed flanks and caused havoc looking for that third goal but on 70 minutes Everton got caught out with a long ball which Davies seemed to come off his line too soon and Drennan the Villa substitute took advantage of DaviesÂ´s decision and put the ball into the goal and make it level.
Thomas was hungry with another attack and crossed a ball to Forrester yet again but Everton could only manage to win a corner as time was running out. The game looked to be going into extra time as the backroom staff were organising the Energy drinks to revive the players and I was only too sure that whoever could snatch a goal would surely be the match winner.
With 6 minutes remaing Villa came very close when Robinson the other Villa substitute crossed to his collegue Williams who had a shot which I thought was in only to go narrowly past DaviesÂ´s right hand post.
Thomas makes another desperate run and cuts inside and maybe should have done better but Barrett was not troubled with the effort.
As the game entered itÂ´s closing stages and in the 86th minute Tom Molyneux the Everton sub gave the ball unselfishly to McAleny who was a good way out and planted a ball high into BarrettÂ´s net and that was surely the end for a battling Villa side who made a good game of it and the goal scorer McAleny was underneath his team mates as they hugged him knowing that was the winner. Everton took off Forrester on 90 minutes who worked hard upfront to replace him with Ryan Higgins as the seconds ticked away.
There was a great celebrations for the team as the whistle blew for full time and send Everton to the final in which they will play either Fulham or Sunderland at the Reebok Stadium
Man of the match contenders, well there was a few nominees including, McAleny, Bidwell, Donegan and Thomas but I will opt for the latter being Adam Thomas for his strong and teasing runs and dangerous crosses .
On a sad note Johann hammer left Finch Farm on crutches obviously his season is over and also Lundstram and Hope will not arrive back in time for the final.