Reading U21 v Everton U21
Everton’s Under-21 side earned their first point of their Barclays Under-21 Premier League campaign with a deserved point at Reading.
Alan Stubbs’ side have had a difficult start to their season, losing heavily to West Ham United and Arsenal in their previous games and the signs looked ominous when the Royals took the lead through Matthew Partridge.
But credit must go to the young Blues who refused to be beaten again and skipper Shane Duffy nodded in Luke Garbutt’s corner to earn a justified share of the spoils.
Stubbs went for a five-man midfield to try and control the game and largely it paid off. In a game of few scoring opportunities, Reading were limited to half chances at best. But so were Everton, Apostolos Vellios could have won it had he taken two good chances in either half.
Having been well-beaten by Arsenal last time out, Everton were understandably nervy in the opening exchanges. Duffy had to be alert to cut out a Dominic Samuel cross but the Irishman played a part in the opening goal of the game.
He only managed to half clear a free-kick swung in from then left straight to the unmarked Partridge lurking at the back post, and he had time to steady himself and lash the ball past a helpless Mateusz Taudul.
The visitors responded. Duffy, who had guided an earlier chance off target but was clearly eager to atone for his earlier transgression, hauled his side level on 40 minutes. Garbutt’s inswinging corner picked out the towering centre back’s dart to the near post perfectly and his header beat Stuart Taylor.
The goal lifted the Blues and Matthew Kennedy, who looked lively on his debut, was only denied a first goal by a sprawling Taylor, following a strong run down the right from Tyias Browning.
However, it was hit-man Vellios who went closest to a second. Junior wriggled free down the left and floated over a great cross to the near post that the Greek could only nod narrowly over.
Everton’s pressure continued after the break. Taylor was at full-stretch to keep out a well-struck Kennedy effort, whilst the Scot teed up another guilt-edged chance for Vellios. His low cross picked him out perfectly and whilst he connected well, the ball flew the wrong side of the post.
Back came Reading, and goalscorer Patridge almost added to his total but Taudul comfortably dealt with his header, whilst his second went wide.
With that, the game became fractious. Half chances came and went – Kennedy and Sam Kelly both lashed over, and Jake Taylor and Royals sub Uche Ikpeazu spurned decent opportunites – as the game drew to a close.
In the end though, a resolute performance had yielded an d point, and Stubbs will be hoping the corner has been turned after a tough start to the Under-21s season.