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Southport FC | 17th March 2013 14:00

Everton Under-21s v Aston Villa Under-21s

Goals from Conor McAleny and birthday boy Hallam Hope helped Everton extend their unbeaten run to 10 games and go six points clear at the top of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League Group 1 table.

However, having been 2-0 to the good with just 21 minutes remaining, Alan Stubbs' side were left to reflect on two points dropped rather than one point gained at Southport's Merseyrail Community Stadium.

Stubbs made just one change to the side that won 1-0 at Chelsea on Monday, Matthew Pennington coming in for January arrival John Stones at right-back.

And the young Blues picked up where they left off in the capital, starting brightly against their Midlands rivals.

Indeed, it was the hosts who carved out the first opportunity of the match just six minutes in when Hope, celebrating his 19th birthday, burst down the right before picking out McAleny with a searching cross.

Showing a tremendous leap, the diminutive forward climbed high to reach it, and duly had goalkeeper Bradley Watkins scrambling across his line with a header that bounced just two feet wide.

Six minutes later McAleny turned provider as he played in Apostolos Vellios, but as the Greek galloped through on goal, Watkins raced out quickly to smother at his feet.
 
Everton were comfortably on top though, and soon after a Luke Garbutt corner found its way out to the loitering Ross Barkley, whose firmly struck effort was blocked on the line before Pennington steered wide from the rebound.

Villa did have some possession of their own, and when a free-kick was driven into the box just after the half-hour mark, Mason Springthorpe had to be alert to dive at full stretch and deny defender Danny Devine.

The scare was a reminder of the visitors' threat - but within a minute Everton were in front.

McAleny, oozing confidence on the back of six goals in seven games, picked up the ball down the inside left channel, cut inside on to his right foot and caressed a shot low past Watkins and in off the post.

Villa came out quickly in the second half and Springthorpe had to palm away a rasping long-range attempt from Johnson before McAleny fired wide with his own driven effort from the edge of the box.

The striker would eventually get the better of the Villans again on 68 minutes however, this time providing a sweet left-wing cross which allowed Hope to thump a header past Watkins and extend Everton's lead.

Two-goal cushion in place, Stubbs would no doubt have wanted his side to see out the final stages with the minimum of fuss.

As it was, their advantage was slashed within just 120 seconds, Johnson charging forward before emphatically slotting the ball beyond the helpless Springthorpe.

And it was Johnson again, who, with just four minutes left on the clock, drilled in low from the edge of the box to earn his side an unlikely point and spoil what, for 69 minutes at least, had been Everton's afternoon.

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