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Southport FC | 8th April 2013 19:00

Everton U21s v Fulham U21s

Tony Hibbert returned from four months on the sidelines to help Everton Under-21s earn a 1-1 draw against Fulham on Monday evening.

The veteran right-back had not featured since the first-team's 1-1 draw at Manchester City in early December, but proved his fitness following calf surgery as the Blues' second-string extended their unbeaten run to 11 games.

After an uneventful first half, it took a goal from Shane Duffy to warm up proceedings - a header cancelled out by Fulham substitute Muamer Tankovic 11 minutes from time.

The new Under-21 league allows for three overage outfield players to feature in a matchday squad - and Alan Stubbs selected his former teammate Hibbert in the centre of a five-man defence.

With Tyias Browning and Duffy either side of Hibbert, Mason Springthorpe's back-line was completed by the attacking wing-backs of Luke Garbutt and John Stones.

Francisco Junior held midfield, with Conor Grant, Matthew Kennedy and Hallam Hope interchanging roles on the flanks and centre. Apostolos Vellios spearheaded the attack as a lone frontman.

It was an unremarkable first 45 minutes at the Merseyrail Community Stadium - Vellios having the best of the meagre amount of opportunities for both sides.

With Kennedy and Garbutt operating in tandem on the left, the former found the latter on the overlap. The resulting cross found Vellios in the box and despite his jinking footwork to create a yard of space, his effort flew wide of Jesse Joronen's post.

Duffy headed a Kennedy cross over midway through the half, either side of shots off target from Fulham's Chris David.

Blues goalkeeper Mason Springthorpe was only called into action once before the interval, but the former Shrewsbury stopper was down well to thwart Ryan Williams' drive.

The second half began and the Blues immediately looked more lively with the floodlights on and attacking in the same direction as the blustery wind.

A rare scramble in the Everton box on 50 minutes saw Ryan Williams clip the bottom of the post, a miss the visitors would rue five minutes later.

Hope was felled outside the box as Stubbs' forces tried to counter - and Garbutt was all too keen to grab the ball with the intention of delivering into the danger area.

He did just that and Duffy was not even required to jump to head home his fifth goal of the campaign.

That combination almost fashioned a second in near-replica circumstances minutes later, but this time Duffy glanced wide.

At the other end, Springthorpe had to be alert to thwart Lasse Vigen Christensen on the hour-mark, but with just 11 minutes later, the 18-year-old was beaten.

After neat play outside the Blues' area, substitute Tankovic curled a sublime effort low and into the bottom corner to level, making for an open close to the game.

Stubbs sent on in-form Under-18s forward Chris Long in search of a winner, but a narrowly-wide header from Stones and Duffy's rasping shot against the crossbar was all that his troops could muster.

A final score of 1-1 keeps Everton top of Group One, one point clear of Aston Villa and with a game in hand.

The Blues are back in action on Monday 15 April away to Middlesbrough (1pm kick-off).

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