Everton were well and truly turned over today by a very determined Coventry team as the Everton juniors put in a very uncharacteristic performance and probably their worst of pre season at the Alan Higgs centre, Coventry.
This was to be the last friendly before the season opens next week as Everton travel down South to play Tottenham. Today´s teams both played their last games last Saturday when Coventry City drew 1-1 with Nottingham Forest whilst Everton defeated Kilmarnock 1-0. Coventry City´s academy manager is coincidentally Gregor Rioch the son of former hot shot Bruce Rioch and the coach for the under 18´s is no stranger to Evertonians, none other than Lee Carsley .
Everton made 4 changes to the team that beat Kilmarnock by bringing in on the left hand side of midfield and first year scholar Jasper Johns who was away with England last week. Aristote Nsiala today´s captain who had to get clearance from Coventry for today´s game with him being over the age limit and missing out on a first team versus reserves game at Goodison today partnered Matthew Pennington who came in for Jake Bidwell in defence. Tyias Browning replaced Ryan Higgins at right back . Everton played with the same formation as they did seven days ago with Eric Dier sitting in front of the back four and behind midfield. Everton today played in their changed kit of amber shirts.
The Sky blues kicked off with the wind in their favour, who settled the better of the two sides and as early as five minutes Tom Molineux´s careless pass put Fitzgibbon in the Everton goal under pressure as Billy Daniels who failed to take advantage and screwed his effort inches from the target much to Everton´s relief. Everton responded down the right when Barrow and Thomas linked well as Thomas crossed the ball as Forrester was stalking the box but Coventry got the ball away. Coventry´s Josh Ruffels and Will Roberts teamed up well together as this time Nsiala was the guilty party and conceding possession but again Everton got away lightly. The 9th minute caused Everton concerns when Burge in the home side´s goal launched an amazing long goal kick that had Everton´s defence all over the place but managed to concede the corner. Wiseman´s corner from the right wasn´t cleared by Fitzgibbon´s weak punch and Clarke-Harris who is Coventry´s youngest player having played in the Carling Cup last season for the first team headed home and put the host´s in the driving seat.
Everton´s defenders were guilty of giving away the ball a lot with some poor passing as Coventry were quite happy with forcing Everton into making errors. Ibou Touray had to be on his toes to deny Coventry an attack down the right on 15 minutes when he won a good tackle to release Barrow with a fine pass who again combined with Thomas and another cross aimed for Forrester only for Burge to read well and take the ball easily. Coventry were certainly well worthy of their lead and kept Everton chasing shadows and another effort from Courtney Richards´s not long after just went wide to keep one goal between the teams. Nsiala did better reading another long ball that seemed to be upsetting the Everton back line as the home side´s appetite for another goal looked evident as Coventry pressed.
On 20 minutes Coventry were awarded their 3rd corner of the game as Wiseman´s corner was welcomed by Ruffels who never capitalised and eventually Everton got the ball away. Four minutes later a through ball from Barrow aimed for Dier was denied by Richards in the middle of the park to prevent Everton threatening . Forrester had to have treatment on the half hour as he was injured and the home side went to their dug out to consume some liquids and refresh themselves but fortunately Forrester got back on his feet.
A series of long balls were troubling the visitors but Nsiala showed his experience as he coped well with another long ball from a Henderson pass as the home side kept attacking and full marks to him (Nsiala) again for recovering from his mistake to halt the attackers pushing to increase the lead. The 35th minute arrived when Jordan Barrow´s effort from a good way out was the first shot on goal but Burge was equal to the shot and saved. Everton won a corner after Thomas had a block shot and from Molineux´s corner Dier as he´s done in the past won the header only for his goal bound effort to be headed off the line by Alex Donald.
Everton failed to create any positives from a very poor first half showing and frustrations were slowly creeping in as a few niggles got into the game. The last ten minutes of the first half Everton did actually look the better but Burge and his defenders were never troubled. Dier kept his cool and did not react after a heavy challenge and Barrow was spoken to by the ref for a challenge and clearly not happy with the Everton midfielder. It was Barrow again who tried to regain some pride as his shot from outside the box with a Molinuex assist was well saved from Burge who had to dive low to his right. I spoke with Greg Rioch at the break who said that Coventry were worthy of their lead but Everton were better for the last ten minutes and I was in agreement with that.
Half Time Coventry City U18´s 1 EvertonU18´s 0
Everton made their way onto the pitch for the second half 5 minutes before their hosts and clearly Kevin Sheedy wasn´t happy as he was talking things through with some individuals. Like last Saturday, Everton made a goalkeeper change at the break bringing on Connor Roberts in place of Fitzgibbon.
The first minute of the second period Sheedy´s pitch instructions were well and truly dampened as Clarke-Harris´s surge on goal and a powerful shot from distance could only be helped in by a hand from a desperate Roberts who had little chance and put the game beyond Everton´s reach. Richards continued to cause Browning problems and like the first half Everton´s display wasn´t encouraging. Nsiala was spoken to by the ref on 57 minutes for a foul on the menacing Richards following a Wiseman corner.
Rufels took the free kick whose shot came off the Everton wall and give City another corner
25 minutes remained as Roberts made a catch with two hands to put a firm hold on a shot that was well struck from Daniels. Johns and Touray threatened on the left and as Touray got into the box with his sights on goal and was equally met by by a stubborn home defence who gave nothing away all afternoon. A penalty appeal in Everton´s favour was waved away by the ref as Forrester and Barrow in unison closed in and as Barrow tumbled he could only lift his arms aloft knowing the decision wasn´t to his advantage this which summed up Everton´s afternoon.
74 minutes and Coventry replaced Roberts and Richardson with Rankin and Garner and Everton followed suit a minute or so later when the brought on Chris Long in expense of Tom Molineux. With time running out and Everton unlikely to score but Coventry always posing danger Touray who had a busy afternoon stopped a move involving sub Garner and goal scorer Clarke-Harris. Ryan Higgins replaced Browning with 12 minutes left and Rankin caught the Everton back four flat footed with a wonderful ball but his colleague failed to read the pass which could have spelt more trouble for the visitors. With the game all but over and the 2-0 score line not giving a true reflection of the game a 25 yard free kick five minutes from time by Billy Daniels that beat the wall and goalkeeper Roberts and finally put the nail in Everton´s coffin. Jordan Barrow was then immediately replaced by Ben Heneghan but as much as Everton tried to change things the damage was well and truly done and the sound of the referee´s whistle couldn´t come quick enough
This was the worst pre season performance by the youngsters but unfortunately the whole team had an off day with possibly Touray, Barrow and Dier looking the brighter. I will not be worried as I know what this team are capable of and a performance like this now and again will do them good. Tottenham next week will be a test for our boys but the but Spurs will not have an easy ride as Everton are eager to defend their crown.
One final note should anyone ever go to the Coventry academy I thought they were very welcoming and their hospitality was second to none
On a brighter note the under 16´s won 1-0 courtesy of a second half goal by Joe Johnson