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Goodison Park | 20th January 2014 19:00

Everton U21s v Aston Villa U21s

Everton Under-21s returned to action on Monday evening, but fell to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Aston Villa.

With the first-team in action at West Brom and many of the Blues youngsters out on loan, Alan Stubbs' side had an average age of just 17.

And despite a valiant team effort and arguably the better chances, Andreas Stieber's 61st-minute volley was enough to separate the sides.

Indeed, it was much the same side that competed in the Youth Cup at Goodison six days prior and despite the result, it proved to be a solid test for Everton's first and second-year scholars.

The Blues started brightly and midfielder Ryan Ledson was first to force a save with his third-minute drive from distance.

The atmosphere became somewhat subdued after Villa's Liam Bateman suffered what looked to be a broken leg after a freak incident on the touchline. With the game on hold for several minutes, it took a while to rediscover its rhythm.

A flurry of chances for Gethin Jones saw the Welshman bring out two good saves from goalkeeper Watkins, before seeing another effort dribble agonisingly wide.

Joe Williams went close next with a half-volley that needed to be palmed to safety, while Ben McLaughlin and Courtney Duffus both had shots on target at the start of the second half.

As the Blues started to ring the changes with a view to opening the game up, Villa struck a fatal blow.

With the ball dropping on the edge of the box, Andreas Stieber was in perfect position to hit a sweet volley off the inside of the post and in just after the hour-mark.

Subsitute Harry Charsley then found the upright at the other end, but the bounce was less fortunate for the Republic of Ireland Under-17 international and Watkins was able to gather on the goalline.

It would be as close as Everton would come on the night, despite tireless running and fearless creativity from the Club's scholars.

Next up for the Under-21s is a trip to Tottenham on 3 February.

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