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Thursday 18 September K.O. 20:05

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Merseyrail Community Stadium | 18th August 2014 19:00

Everton U21s v Leicester City U21s

Everton Under-21s opened the 2014/15 campaign with a win as strikes from Chris Long, Hallam Hope and Tyias Browning saw off Leicester City at the Merseyrail Community Stadium.

The young Blues twice led by two goals only to be pegged back by a Ryan Ledson own goal and a Jacob Blyth penalty, while Long missed his own effort from the spot late on.

The contest also saw debuts for summer arrivals Sam Byrne and Brendan Galloway, while 16-year-old Kieran Dowell made his first appearance for the development squad as a second-half substitute.

David Unsworth's side got their campaign off to the perfect start when Gethin Jones burst down the right and centred for Long - scorer of a stunning goal in the first-team's recent friendly at SC Paderborn - to bundle home from two-yards out on three minutes.

And the same player may have added another with a drive that stung the palms of goalkeeper Adam Smith before teammate Hope made it 2-0 with just nine minutes played.

Picking up possession on the left-hand side of the box, the former Bury and Northampton loanee shimmied away from his marker and angled a powerful right-foot shot low to Smith's left.

Confidence soaring, Long again tested Smith before the quarter-hour mark, blasting an effort towards the keeper's near-post that needed a strong hand to palm it away.

Asked to operate at left-back instead of the more familiar position of centre-half, the impressive Galloway proved a constant menace down Leicester's right-hand side, though twice in quick succession he saw crosses blocked and cleared after marauding runs forward. Another then ended with his cut-back looping off a defender and comfortably into the arms of Smith.

And, having dominated, the Blues allowed Leicester back into the contest seven minutes before the break.

Dropping deep, Ledson overcooked his pass back to Jindrich Stanek and the Czech stopper failed in his attempt to scramble it away from goal.

But the Toffees were to start the second half as they had begun the first and the two-goal cushion was restored when skipper Browning popped up at the back post to hook Conor Grant's corner into the roof of the net just four minutes after the restart.

This time, however, the visitors hit back immediately, Stanek bringing down Tom Hopper in the box, allowing Blyth to blast the resulting spot-kick low to his right.

Leicester made two changes in quick succession just before the hour, which Unsworth responded to by sending on midfielder Dowell - not 17 until October - for Joe Williams.

On 71 minutes, Long was gifted an opportunity to put daylight between the two sides again after he was sent tumbling in the area by Ryan Watson. In fairness to the striker, his penalty was struck firmly enough to have doubled his tally but Smith produce a stunning dive to turn it past the post.

Hope also sent a glorious opportunity to bag his second over the top before being subbed off for Courtney Duffus, while George Green replaced the tiring debutant Byrne.

A low ball across the box caused one late moment of panic in the Everton rearguard but the Blues held on to record a deserved opening-night victory.

Their next outing will be at Fulham on Monday 25 August.

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