Under-18s v Southampton
Everton Under-18s booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup with an impressive 2-0 win over Southampton at St Mary’s.
George Waring set the Blues on their way with a clinical low finish after just 11 minutes.
And Conor Grant ensured Kevin Sheedy’s team progressed when he struck from close-range just before the hour mark.
It was an accomplished performance from the scholars who also managed to record a shut-out against a Southampton side that had smashed 33 goals in 12 league games prior to Monday evening’s encounter.
Despite the Saints’ attacking qualities, it was Everton who set the early pace.
An enterprising start had already seen a powerfully struck Matthew Kennedy shot tipped over the bar before the Blues landed the first blow through Waring on 11 minutes.
Midfielder Grant played a perfectly weighted through pass and the Everton number 9 made no mistake, taking his time and confidently slotting the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
After the Toffees’ early dominance, Southampton began to offer more and more as the first half progressed. However, when they did break through the Everton defence, they were thwarted by the impressive Mateusz Taudul.
The Polish goalkeeper raced off his line to bravely dive at the feet of Jake Sinclair before making two saves in quick succession just after the half-hour mark. Firstly, he blocked Callum Chambers’ effort and then then beat away a stinging shot from Ryan Seager.
Everton's well-marshalled defensive line resisted the pressure well and, as a result, the Blues took a narrow lead into half-time.
Southampton started brightly after play resumed and they thought they had levelled when centre-half Jason McCarthy stabbed the ball into the Everton net. The linesman’s flag on the far side put paid to any celebrations though and the goal was disallowed for offside.
A minute later and Everton doubled their lead, again through another well-worked goal.
Kennedy’s deep cross from the left was headed back across the six-yard box by Gethin Jones at the far post. Grant was in the right place at the right time and duly converted from close-range.
It left Southampton with a mountain to climb in the final half-hour and although the hosts did respond in a positive way, there was no way past a resolute Everton defence.
Kevin Sheedy was forced into making a change in goal, however, as Taudul was carried from the field after landing awkwardly 15 minutes before full-time.
Replacement goalkeeper Russell Griffiths was thrust into the action and he too was up to the task, particularly when he dived low to his left in the dying minutes to push away Seager’s skidding 20-yard effort.
Kennedy could have made the winning margin even bigger deep into the six minutes of stoppage time when he fired narrowly over the target from the edge of the box.
But it didn’t take anything away from what had been an all-round imposing performance from the Under-18s, who now have a fourth round tie and Elite Group league football to look forward after the festive period.