Our resident youth team reporter provdes an account of Everton U18s defeat to Blackburn.
Everton lost the lead twice in this game as it was played in very windy conditions at Finch Farm.
With the inclusion of Ross Barkley in midfield alongside John Lundstram captaining the team Everton found Rovers hero Curtis Haley a handful as he capitalised on some poor Everton defending to punish Everton after Hallam Hope and Anton Forrester got a brace each as the young Toffee lost the game 5-4.
The last time these two met in November nobody could have predicted a seven goal thriller that could have gone either way as Everton came out to eventually win 4-3.
Evertonâ€™s youngsters had not played since their FA youth cup defeat at QPR 9 days ago whilst todayâ€™s visitors Blackburn had defeated Coventry City to reach the 5th round of the FA youth cup last Tuesday.
Everton kicked off the game with sun shining down but a very cold and strong wind was going to make conditions difficult as the hosts played against the wind in the first half. Long and Forrester lead the Everton frontline with Hope supporting them.
Fitzgibbon was the first of the keepers to be tested as Mason_Ware robbed an Everton defender of the ball to strike which Fitzgibbon held comfortably in the first 60 seconds.
Forrester struck first for the home team as he turned on the ball to deliver the shot to keeper Urwinâ€™s left hand side to put the blues ahead.
5 minutes later after some nice build up play Barkley threads a lovely ball into Hallam Hopes sight who knocks a ball high into the net and stretching Evertonâ€™s lead further.
With the wind in the visitors favour Blackburn were now settling down and were winning quite a good number of corners who were certainly looking for an opening. Fitzgibbon did well to pounce on a ball from a Rovers corner and Osawe ahd a chance for Rovers just narrowly going wide.
Ross Barkley set up Chris Long on the half hour as Everton attacked on the counter but Long was unlucky to send his effort just wide of the post, Barkley was unlucky with a header that just escaped the bar. Everton despite the windy conditions were playing some delightful football in midfield that earned applause from the faithful on the touchline.
With ten minutes of the half remaining Blackburn were awarded a penalty for a foul. The match official had trouble keeping the ball on the spot but when he was happy Fernandez made no mistake beating Fitzgibbon with a fine strike and giving the visitors a life line.
Curtis Haley levelled the game on 40 minutes with a superb finish to make an interesting end to the first half. But who would believe it when Everton were to add another two goals before half time as Hope who got the blues back in front as Barkley again assisted with a ball that Hope did well to put away.
Forrester made it 4-2 with a very good workman like goal and this put Everton in a very good position for the next period and the wind in their favour.
HALF TIME EVERTON U18â€™S 4 BLACKBURN ROVERS U18â€™S 2
Blackburn coped better with the conditions opposed to Everton in the first half and it was Rovers who got off the mark early in the second half to make it 4 -3 with a goal from Osaymen Osawe after Fitzgibbon failed to deal with it.
Barkley was replaced on the hour by Molyneux and only moments later Blackburn drew level to make it a staggering 4-4 with still just under half an hour to play as Evertonâ€™s defence found Haley a handful.
The game was looking to be a see saw affair as Blackburn looked more of a threat on the attack as Evertonâ€™s confidence looked as though it had taken a knock with the two goals from their visitors to put the game in the balance.
Thomas came off the bench to replace Higgins, but with 5 minutes remaining it was Haley to complete his hattrick and put Rovers astonishingly in the lead for the first time in the game as Evertonâ€™s defence found him too much to cope with.
Evertonâ€™s heads dropped with time ticking away it was too little too late for them as three points had been thrown away.
Blackburn were worthy of their victory and now Everton must regroup as they travel to face Manchester United next Saturday at Carrington.
If i had to vote for a man of the match award today then Hallam Hope would get my vote.
Match Officials Ref Mr R Ackers, Assisted by J McLoughlin and M Herzog â€ƒ FULL TIME EVERTON U18â€™S 4 BLACKBURN ROVERS 5