St Mirren v Everton Under-21s
Strike duo Chris Long and Hallam Hope were both on target as Everton Under-21s played out an entertaining 2-2 draw with St Mirren in the first game of their mini-tour to Scotland on Monday.
With just one domestic fixture scheduled for November – a trip to Middlesbrough in the third round of the inaugural Under-21s Cup – Alan Stubbs has taken his troops to a training camp north of the border to maintain the fitness levels that have helped the young Blues embark on a five-match unbeaten run on home soil.
The second string will also play Kilmarnock on Thursday afternoon before returning to Merseyside to prepare for the trip to the Riverside Stadium on Monday 18 November.
Monday’s match, played at the Saints’ training ground, was a topsy-turvy affair which saw Everton overturn a first-half deficit and then concede a late equaliser just two minutes from the end.
After the final whistle, Stubbs declared himself pleased with the workout as he reflected on the competitive nature of the game which, despite being a friendly on paper, had a typical Scotland versus England edge to it.
Indeed, the Under-21s coach had named a more or less full strength team, but the Toffees found themselves behind at half-time.
John Lundstram struck the post and Long nodded over prior to the hosts’ deadlock-breaking goal on 35 minutes – a header from Adam Brown that looped up and over helpless goalkeeper Mason Springthorpe.
The Blues didn’t deserve to trail and, unruffled, they came out in the second half and completely bossed the contest.
After Hope had seen a goalbound effort blocked, Long levelled the scores with a scrappy goal 10 minutes following the restart. The England youth international was in the right place to convert from close range, although the home side felt that the goal should have been ruled out for handball.
It continued to be one-way traffic. Hope and Lundstram went close from distance, Browning headed wide and Long almost grabbed a second when his shot from just inside the area was charged down.
But the Blues deservedly went ahead in the 80th minute with a well-taken goal from Hope. A cross from the left found its way to the in-form striker, who brought the ball down on his chest and prodded into the bottom corner from eight-yards out.
Hope's effort seemed to have secured the win for Everton - but they were stung just two minutes before the final whistle when right-back Ben McLaughlin was adjudged to have tripped Lewis Morgan inside the area.
John Seullion stepped up from 12 yards and his low, powerful spot-kick snatched a draw for the home side.
Everton will now retreat to their base in Glasgow and then aim to continue their unbeaten run on Thursday afternoon against Kilmarnock.