Fulham U21s v Everton U21s
Conor McAleny’s first-half goal helped Everton Under-21s to a 1-0 win at Fulham on Monday.
The Blues, with John Stones making his debut, were ahead inside 20 minutes as McAleny coolly slotted home following a neat passing move.
From then on they had to resiliently hold their ground as the hosts – with former Toffee Simon Davis in their ranks - enjoyed the greater possession but none of the luck as they twice hit the woodwork.
Fulham had the game’s first chance, Alex Smith shooting straight at Mason Springthorpe, but Everton soon carved out an opportunity of their own, Matty Kennedy twisting and firing over a cross that Apostolos Vellios could only head wide.
The visitors were then forced to shuffle their pack as Francisco Junior went down in a heap after a heavy tackle. The Portugese midfielder failed to recover and was replaced by Hallam Hope, meaning Conor Grant dropped back into midfield.
It failed to trouble the Blues however, and on 19 minutes they went ahead. Precise play down the left saw the ball find its way to McAleny, who drove a shot beyond Neil Etheridge and into the corner to hand his side the lead.
Fulham responded, dominating possession but the most they could muster was a tame Smith shot again straight at Springthorpe.
The Toffees were defending well and, when possible, were bursting forward with pace. The final ball, however, was eluding them when it mattered.
Kennedy tried to remedy that just before half time. Picking up the ball wide left, he jinxed past two Fulham defenders, took aim from 25 yards but his shot was always swerving away from the target.
He was clearly enjoying the better of his opposite man; a cheeky flick released Luke Garbutt but the move broke down.
Davies saw out the half by firing a free-kick straight at Springhtorpe.
After the break it was the Blues who started the brighter and with renewed vigour. Home keeper Etheridge was called into early action to save low to his left to deny McAleny a second.
The hosts weathered the early pressure but failed to really test Springthorpe, although Cauley Woodrow blazed a powerful drive over the bar.
They came even closer when Chris David thundered a free-kick off the bar, as Fulham began to control proceedings.
Ex-Blue Davies then headed over a fine cross from left-back Sean Kavanagh.
But despite them hitting the bar again through Smith, Fulham just could not find a way through, leaving Everton with three points and a clean sheet.