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Cobham | 11th March 2013 14:00

Chelsea U21s v Everton U21s

Conor McAleny's stunning second-half strike saw Everton inflict defeat on Chelsea and maintain their grip on top spot in Group 1 of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League.

Everton's record since the second group phase began in January now reads five wins and one draw, putting them comfortably in control at the midway point.

And this victory was a deserved one.

Having been forced to come from two goals behind in their last two games, albeit to take a point from Sunderland and all three against Blackburn, Alan Stubbs would have been pleased to see his side capitalise on their opening hour superiority before professionally seeing out a late Chelsea charge.

The only negative on a sub-zero afternoon at the hosts' Cobham training ground was the 89th-minute dismissal of the otherwise outstanding Ross Barkley for an off-the-ball altercation.

As has been the case for much of the campaign, Stubbs was able to name a handful of players boasting first-team experience as Luke Garbutt, Francisco Junior, Shane Duffy and Apostolos Vellios all joined Barkley and McAleny in the starting XI.

The players may have been forgiven for thinking it was approaching mid-December rather then mid-March as they emerged from the warmth of the dressing room to the sight of a not insignificant Surrey snowstorm.

The conditions didn't seem to affect Everton though and the young Blues made a solid start, Barkley slightly miscuing with the first effort on goal after expertly riding two attempts to bring him down on the edge of the box.

Moments later, the ball bounced up for Vellios but, under pressure, the Greek could only scuff his shot wide from 14 yards.

Chelsea's Kevin Wright then blazed high and wide after creating space on the edge of the Everton box, before Duffy's powerful header from Garbutt's swirling corner forced a decent stop from goalkeeper Jamal Blackman.

Another teasing Garbutt delivery led to another header for McAleny before the break, but after slinking his neck backwards to reach it, the forward couldn't quite guide his effort on target.

The start to the second half saw the visitors pick up where they'd left off though and both Vellios and McAleny passed up gilt-edged chances to put their side in front before the latter finally broke the deadlock with 53 minutes gone.

Picking up the ball 30 yards from goal, the Huyton-born striker strode forward, looked up and let fly to spectacularly notch his fifth goal in just six second-string outings.

Perhaps predictably, the blow brought Chelsea to life and on 64 minutes Mason Springthorpe had to be alert to dive low and deny striker Lewis Baker. The rebound fell for the pacy Adam Nditi but the winger rushed his shot and sent the ball sailing high over the crossbar.

Barkley, fresh from his first-team cameo at the weekend, then showed a further glimpse of his craftiness by turning centre-back Dion Conroy inside out on the edge of the box, only to fire wide - much to his clear frustration.

At the other end, Everton continued to keep Chelsea at bay and even when home captain Todd Kane broke through, he, like Baker, found Springthorpe in top form.

The save, low down to the keeper's left, proved enough to ensure his side victory. And though Barkley received his marching orders in the dying seconds, it did little to take the shine off what was another impressive showing by Stubbs' ever-improving table toppers.

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