Everton U18s fought off a very determined Derby County side with a 3-1 win.
Jordan Barrow put the blues ahead with a wonderful strike on 17 minutes. Ben Heneghan doubled Evertonâ€™s lead with a gallant header before Derby forced Connor Grant to concede an own goal before the break. The second half Anton Forrester sealed the win for the blues with a delightful finish with a Thomas assist after the home side had put Everton under pressure.
Moor Farm training ground was the venue for the second of the Inter House Fixtures with a decent sky and a good looking pitch awaiting the teams.
Everton had to be without Dier and Hope who have teamed up with the reserves so Matthew Pennington partnered Ben Heneghan at the heart of the defence and fit again Anton Forrester who was a substitute last weekend came in for Hallam Hope. John Lundstram was the other absentee who is currently serving a suspension for his sending off against Liverpool two weeks ago.
The home side kicked off against a much in form Derby County team who had only lost twice in their last ten league outings so a very good performance from Everton was required. Derby fielded 9 first year scholars in their line up.
Everton forced the very first corner of the game but it was the Rams that came the closest to breaking the deadlock on 8 minutes when Will Hughes beat Jasper Johns and wriggled into the box only to see Heneghan clear off the line.
Everton responded two minutes later with their first real chance of the game after Forrester had won a header which fell to Thomas who unleashed a right foot volley to be denied by Tom Hassall in the Derby net.
Ben Heneghan had two headers in the opening fifteen minutes from Connor Grantâ€™s deliveries only to see the efforts sail over the bar but Everton showed at this stage that they had settled down well and were up for the contest.
On 17 minutes Everton got themselves ahead with an attack which started on the left, the ball was played by Adam Thomas to the feet of midfielder Barrow who struck a beautiful shot from 25 yards sweetly to Hassallâ€™s left and into the net.
Derby reacted as expected by stepping up the pace of the game and it was Kwame Thomas who tested Roberts with a shot from distance but the keeper had it covered.
Everton got forward when possible and it was Femi Orenugaâ€™s determined run that won them a free kick just outside the box. From the free kick taken by Grant, Heneghan for the third time in the game rose high at the back post to head home and put the blues further ahead.
Again Derby responded and won a corner, unfortunately for the blues Roberts fumbled and his defence also failed to react but it was Kwame Thomas who seemed to get a touch on the ball and it went in off Grant for an own goal.
Derby were back in the game but the visitors were more than happy to see out the remainder of the half with the lead although Derby again were pushing. Pennington made a very important tackle to deny Will Hughes who was Derbyâ€™s best player the opportunity to do any damage.
DERBY COUNTY U18â€™S 1 EVERTON U18â€™S 2
It was the home side that showed more promise in the opening stages of the second half, Pennington recovered well from a mistake he had made as Derby were pressing.
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Everton were being forced to defend and had to take their chances as and when, Derbyâ€™s midfield was proving to be a force with Dylan Hayes and Will Hughes doing their utmost to create for the forward line with credit to Evertonâ€™s back line for standing strong.
Heneghan again went close with a header and was really showing an appetite after scoring earlier.
Everton finally increased the lead on the hour with a lovely move which involved Sam Kelly on the left who fed Thomas who then headed the ball for Forrester to latch on to and bury it beyond the keeper to make it 3-1.
The goal was just the ingredient the blues needed and the home side looked shell shocked after conceding a third as Everton strutted their stuff with confidence.
Pennington was reliable with his defending skills displaying a solid performance soaking up the Derby pressure when called upon.
Niall Dawkins attacked down the left for the Rams with 15 minutes remaining and Roberts was at his best to cover the curling cross by making it safe by pushing the ball out for a corner. Again Pennington was at hand to clear the threat from the corner with time ticking away.
Richards went close with a headed effort in the latter stages of the game and Derbyâ€™s Thomas was guilty of missing a glorious opportunity to reduce the deficit when the ball seemed to slide off his foot in front of goal which let Everton off the hook.
Kelly set up Forrester at the other end but this time the goal machine failed to convert with Wassall saving with ease.
Adam Thomas who worked tirelessly up front again today and causing the Derby defence problems with his electric pace should have added to the tally after Sam Kelly nodded the ball to him but somehow missed his chance.
Despite Derbyâ€™s hunger to claw their way back into the game it was the visitors that held on to give them the points as coach Kevin Sheedy would have been pleased with his teams performance.
Some great displays from Pennington, Higgins, Thomas, Heneghan and Kelly but the award goes to Ben Heneghan for a great performance and plenty of vocals encouraging his troops throughout.
Everton travel to Bolton on Wednesday for a rearranged fixture which was called off recently due to bad weather.