Under-23s: Story Of The Season

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Manchester City’s failure to win at Liverpool on Monday night may have handed Everton Under-23s the inaugural Premier League 2 crown but, make no mistake, this was a title win the young Blues earned.

With a game still to go - a celebration against neighbours Liverpool at Goodison Park - David Unsworth’s men have put together 15 wins and suffered just three defeats in 21 outings.

That despite the likes of Tom Davies, Mason Holgate, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Matthew Pennington frequently being seconded for first-team duty and an on-loan list that has limited the Under-23s involvement of prospects such as Callum Connolly, Tyias Browning, Russell Griffiths, Calum Dyson, Antony Evans, Conor Grant and Gethin Jones. Here’s how they did it…
AUGUST

It was a season that began and ended in triumph. The SuperCup NI, Liverpool Senior Cup and Lancashire Senior Cup were all secured before 4 August as Unsworth’s men made it a treble of pre-season trophies.

Two weeks later, a 2-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur kicked off the campaign proper in style, before the first home outing of the campaign reaped a victory against Derby by the very same scoreline.


There was still time to squeeze in a trip to Leicester before a productive opening month was out - Harry Charsley, Kieran Dowell, Evans and Dyson all on target in a 4-1 rout.

SEPTEMBER

A 1-0 reverse at Sunderland kicked off September on a sour note as the unbeaten start came to a halt. But Everton were quickly back to form - and in some fashion.

Arsenal 0 Everton 5; the performance as emphatic as the result suggests and Dyson stepping off the bench to add a couple more goals on what was his 20th birthday.


Manchester United were the next to fall, Dominic Calvert-Lewin grabbing his first goal in Royal Blue as the Red Devils were beaten 2-0 at Southport.

OCTOBER

The goals kept coming in October as four different scorers found the net in a 6-3 stroll at Reading, before the second defeat of the season arrived, bitterly, in the Merseyside mini derby.

Still, a 1-1 draw with Chelsea on home soil was a good way to respond and close out the month.

NOVEMBER

When Calvert-Lewin hit a brilliantly-struck volley from the edge of the box to earn a 1-0 win over Manchester City at Southport in early November, Everton’s joy was at another win over a big rival.


In hindsight, it was a pivotal. A 1-1 draw at Southampton was the only other outing of the month but the young Blues were about to embark on a crucial run of six wins that would turn them from title hopefuls to Premier League 2 frontrunners.

DECEMBER

A cold December threw up just one fixture for the young Blues but another 4-1 thumping of Leicester was enough to warm Unsworth and his charges as they moved back to the top of the Premier League 2 standings.

 
Connolly, Oumar Niasse, Charsley and Courtney Duffus were the scorers at the Merseyrail Community Stadium as a Foxes side boasting Premier League winners Jeff Schlupp and Yohan Benalouane were shown few Christmas tidings by the Toffees.

JANUARY

Everton had revenge on their minds as 2017 got underway, Harry Charsley’s goal reversing the 1-0 defeat from September when they travelled to the North East to face Sunderland.

 
A 3-0 home win over Reading followed, before a Duffus goal and Bassala Sambou’s brace inspired a 3-1 victory along the M62 at Manchester United, increasing the gap at the top as Manchester City only managed a draw with Leicester. 

FEBRUARY

Nathan Broadhead grabbed the only goal to complete a ‘double’ over Arsenal in early February and a sixth successive victory followed as Liam Walsh and Dowell both stuck to inflict a 2-0 defeat on Southampton in front of 5,000 watching Evertonians at Goodison. His performances in the two games were enough to earn Walsh the division’s Player of the Month award, a prize he received from Unsworth in front of all his teammates at the Club’s Finch Farm training ground.


MARCH
 
A trip to Manchester City was a chance to put real daylight between the Blues and their nearest rivals. A 3-0 defeat, however, threw the title race wide open again and a quick response was vital.

2-1 down at Derby with 15 minutes to go, it looked as though the young Blues were wobbling. Up popped Walsh and David Henen with two goals in three minutes to secure a huge victory that left Everton five points clear at the top with just three games remaining.


APRIL

Patience was the key as Spurs headed to Goodison on 10 April but, despite the game being goalless at the hour-mark, efforts from Ademola Lookman and Calvert-Lewin, plus two breathtaking strikes from Dowell and Sambou eventually completed a comprehensive 4-1 win.

Victory for Manchester City over Derby kept the gap at five but, crucially, that was extended to six when Walsh and Sambou struck to secure a 2-2 draw at Chelsea.

It left City needing to win both of their remaining fixtures and, when Liverpool’s Matthew Virtue-Thick netted in injury-time to put his side 3-2 up against the Citizens on Monday night, the celebrations could begin.

Everton Under-23s were the inaugural Premier League 2 champions.


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