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Saturday 01 August 2015, 15:00
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  • Leeds United
  • Everton

A youthful Everton side fell to a 2-0 pre-season defeat against Leeds United at Elland Road.

In an often tightly-contested affair, both sides saw first-half goals ruled out as the opening period came to a close with the deadlock still intact.

But second half strikes from Alex Mowatt and Chris Wood secured victory for the home side in what was a useful test for Everton’s youngsters.

With one eye undoubtedly on Duncan Ferguson’s testimonial against Villarreal on Sunday, Roberto Martinez rang the changes from the side that started in the 2-0 victory over Dundee last time out.

Six Academy graduates were named in the starting line-up, four of whom - Kieran Dowell, Matthew Pennington, Gethin Jones and Antonee Robinson - were making their first senior starts, albeit in a non-competitive fixture.

During a tentative start to the game in west Yorkshire, the Blues’ skipper for the afternoon, Steven Naismith, was first to threaten an experienced Leeds backline.

After receiving the ball from the left, the Scot beat his marker with a deft touch, before admirably staying on his feet to unleash a shot that could only be parried around the post by goalkeeper Marco Silvestri.

The hosts, meanwhile, created their first half chance minutes later as summer signing Wood, who found himself with little in front of him, forced Joel Robles into a smart save with a venomous low drive from 30 yards.

Naismith, operating as the number 10 in the first half, and Arouna Kone linked well down the left flank as Everton looked to assert their dominance, with the latter picking out Dowell who saw his left-footed effort deflected behind for a corner.

Clear opportunities remained at a premium throughout the first period and both sides restricted one another to a handful of long-range efforts as the half came to a close. 

Leeds’ Mowatt went close to capping off a free-flowing counter-attack, but his curling effort drifted inches past Joel’s post.

And, at the other end, Bryan Oviedo, making his first start since fracturing a metatarsal in late April, stung the palms of Silvestri with a low strike after cutting inside following a neat exchange with teenager Robinson.

Wood had the ball in the net before half-time for Uwe Rosler’s side, but the whistle had already gone as the New Zealand international strayed into an offside position.

Similarly, at the other end, Pennington’s close-range tap in was ruled out after Tyias Browning was adjudged to have fouled Giuesppe Bellusci from Dowell’s inviting out-swinging corner.

As such, the sides went in goalless at the interval and Martinez made two changes for the second period, with Conor McAleny and Tom Cleverley replacing Kone and James McCarthy.

Fresh from his goal inside two minutes against Dundee, McAleny was soon in the thick of the action again, pouncing on Dowell’s slide-rule pass down the channel before flashing a dangerous centre across the face of goal - but nobody was there to convert for the Blues.

The Whiston-born forward was again involved 10 minutes into the second half - and it was the best chance the Toffees had created so far.

Ross Barkley picked up the ball on the halfway line and charged forward past two defenders, before finding Robinson on the left. McAleny made good contact with the full-back’s cross - but Silvestri reacted well to adjust and keep the header out.

It was a chance Martinez’s charges were left to rue almost instantly as United countered and, following an intelligent one-two with Sam Byram, Mowatt finished past Joel with aplomb to give the home side the advantage.

Naismith looked set to level the scores with 20 minutes remaining after slipping his marker, but rather than shooting for goal, opted for a pass to Dowell which was over-hit and the chance was gone.

Barkley and Naismith were replaced by Kevin Mirallas and Ryan Ledson with 15 minutes remaining as the Blues pressed for an equaliser.

But it would be the home side who would double the advantage and seal the result 10 minutes from time as Wood’s 25-yard shot looped over Joel to make it 2-0.

Everton now head back to Merseyside for Duncan Ferguson’s testimonial against Villarreal - the final pre-season fixture ahead of the competitive 2015/16 campaign - on Sunday.