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Southport FC | 4th March 2013 19:00

Everton U21s v Blackburn U21s

Three goals in the final 14 minutes saw Everton come from two down to maintain their unbeaten start to 2013 with a stunning victory over Blackburn Rovers on Monday.

The visitors to Southport's Merseyrail Community Stadium were looking to avenge a 3-0 loss in the reverse fixture in January and looked set to do so when they took control through Kellan Daly's early tap-in and a wonderful long-range effort from the impressive John O'Sullivan.

But midfielder Ross Barkley gave Everton hope by driving the ball in from a near-impossible angle before Apostolos Vellios stabbed home to level the scores with four minutes remaining.

Having come from two behind to draw at Sunderland a week ago, it looked as though Alan Stubbs' side were again set to take a point, but there was just enough time remaining for Conor McAleny to provide a cool finish and earn his side what could prove a priceless Group One win.

Stubbs was able to name a strong side, with German international Thomas Hitzlsperger joined by six other players boasting Everton first-team experience.

Two days after being included in David Moyes' squad for the 3-1 win over Reading, there was also just a third second-string start for goalkeeper Mason Springthorpe, while Bryan Oviedo added further international know-how on the bench.

Yet the game got off to the worst possible start for the hosts as with barely a minute on the clock, midfielder Daly poked home after some hesitant defending presented him with a chance he could scarcely miss.

Perhaps rattled by the early blow, Stubbs' side struggled to get a foothold in the game and it wasn't until Barkley's inswinging cross found Shane Duffy 17 minutes in that the hosts carved out a clear chance on goal. Unfortunately for the Irish defender, he couldn't muster the power or the direction to test Seb Usai in the Blackburn net and the ball drifted harmlessly away from the target.

Daly then headed wide again when well-placed, before Vellios showed strength to hold off his marker and poke a shot that trickled agonisingly past the post.

A clumsy touch from Blackburn's Peter Wylie almost gifted Everton an equaliser 10 minutes before the break - the right-back ultimately thankful to see the ball ripple the outer side of the netting with Usai stranded.

Confidence was growing and before the whistle Matthew Kennedy went close with a fizzing 20-yard drive that was arguably Everton's best chance of the half.

Blackburn started brightly once again when play resumed, and after forcing a corner on 47 minutes, Micah Evans somehow headed over when seemingly poised to double his side's advantage.

When Everton's first opportunity of the half came it again fell to Duffy, but from Hitzlsperger's right-wing free-kick the centre-back could only nod well clear of Usai's crossbar.

It looked to have proved costly too as Blackburn would soon be two to the good.

Picking up possession on the right of midfield, O'Sullivan touched the ball inside before letting fly with an unstoppable swerving effort that gave Springthorpe no chance.

Stubbs sent on Hallam Hope for the fading Kennedy in an attempt to turn the tide. And how it worked.

First, Barkley jinked past his marker before getting to the byline and drilling the ball across Usai and in at the back post.

Vellios then kept his cool to slot the ball home from eight yards out, before McAleny - perhaps fortunate not to see an offside flag - capped a remarkable comeback with a composed side-foot shot that sparked unbridled scenes of celebration.

Still unbeaten this year, Everton's youngsters look increasingly good for the Under-21 play-offs.

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