Leicester City U21s v Everton U21s
Everton Under-21s extended their unbeaten run to three matches but they were forced to accept a point at the King Power Stadium.
The young Blues played out an entertaining 1-1 draw with Leicester City – a result that moved Alan Stubbs’ side a step closer towards securing a coveted top-half position and top-tier football next season.
Luke Garbutt’s powerful penalty had given Everton a half-time lead but that was wiped out shortly after the break when Tom Hopper levelled the scores with a looping finish.
Substitute Courtney Duffus hit the post late on for the Toffees but it finished honours even.
Injury forced Conor McAleny to miss the trip to the East Midlands so Chris Long was selected to spearhead the Blues’ frontline.
Since returning from a spell on the sidelines himself a couple of weeks earlier, Long had impressed and he found himself in two promising to put Everton ahead early on.
The striker fired wide from the edge of the area and then, from a similar distance, brought a low save out of Leicester keeper Conrad Logan.
However, it was another England youth international who gave Everton the lead on 20 minutes as Garbutt scored his third penalty in as many matches after Conor Grant had been fouled inside the area by experienced Republic of Ireland international Sean St Ledger.
The left-back went for power and he combined it with precision, firing high into the net from 12 yards out to give the visitors a deserved lead.
The spot-kick filled Everton with even more confidence after their encouraging opening and they pressed ahead further in an attempt to double the advantage.
Magaye Gueye's far post header almost crept in, while Long twice again went close; firstly with a low effort after bamboozling two Leicester defenders and then on the stroke of half-time when he lashed into the side-netting after beating the offside trap with a typically well-timed run.
Everton’s defence had limited Leicester to very little in the first half.
The only save of note that Toffees keeper Jindrich Stanek - in his second appearance since joining in January - had to make was when Ryan Watson unleashed a skidding drive from outside the box on the half-hour mark.
The Foxes came out after the interval offering more and they got back level on 57 minutes, albeit in rather unorthodox fashion.
A cross from the left wasn’t dealt with and Jacob Blyth headed into the path of fellow striker Hopper who managed to loop a scuffed shot up and over Stanek from six yards out.
Everton had gained momentum from their first-half goal and it was the same for Leicester.
The hosts very nearly turned the contest on its head in a matter of minutes when winger Harry Panayioutou missed with a close-range header.
The same player was involved in the thick of the action again moments later as he blocked a crashing volley from his own teammate St Ledger.
Leicester continued to pump balls into the box but Everton’s defence dealt with the threat.
The final 10 minutes were played at breakneck speed as both sides pressed for the game's decisive third goal.
Second-half substitute Duffus almost won the game for the Toffees but, after being teed up by Joe Williams, his 18-yard effort rebounded back off the post.
Likewise, Leicester nearly snatched all three points, only for Stanek to produce fine saves to thwart Hopper and Cain.
After the full-time whistle, coach Stubbs reflected on a ‘good point’, one which keeps Everton in tenth place in the table with just two games remaining.
Next up is the mouth-watering derby against Liverpool at Southport on Monday.