Friday 25 November 12:00 , The BIG HELP Stadium , Attendance:
HT: 1 - 0
  • KO
    • Yellow Card!
      Rico Patterson
    • Substitution
    • Yellow Card!
      Nico Gordon
    • Substitution
    • Goal!
      Francis Okoronkwo
  • HT
    • Substitution
    • Substitution
    • Yellow Card!
      Rico Browne
    • Yellow Card!
      Elijah Campbell
    • Substitution
    • Substitution
    • Substitution
    • Goal!
      Pharell Williams
    • Substitution
    • Yellow Card!
      Brandon Khela
    • Yellow Card!
      Finley Thorndike
  • FT

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Bed Godfrey continue his road to full recovery as he completed 75 minutes for Everton’s Under-21 side as they drew 1-1 with Birmingham City.  

Francis Okoronkwo opened the scoring for the Blues in Friday’s Premier League Cup clash at Haig Avenue, however, the visitors responded late in the second half with a goal from Pharrell Williams.  

The result leaves the Toffees third in Group F and five points behind leaders Southampton who they are set to face early next month.  

Tait’s side started brightly and got their first sight of goal just five minutes into the contest when Roman Dixon whipped a ferocious cross into the penalty box, Coby Ebere rose highest but could only direct his headed effort over the bar.   

Ebere was presented with another chance just two minutes later when he latched onto a drilled pass into the box, his first-time effort found the arms of a grateful Brad Mayo in goal for the visitors. 

The Blues continued to build momentum and took control in the opening exchanges as good pressure from Tait’s side meant Birmingham struggled to sustain a spell in possession.  

Midfielder Matthew Apter was the next to go closest to breaking the deadlock, picking the ball up in the middle of the Birmingham half before weaving through the defence and unleashing a fierce shot that whisked just over the bar.  

Although Jack Barrett’s goal was rarely threatened, the Blues lost some of their attacking intent in the latter stages of the first period and both sides tussled to grab a foothold in the game.  

Just before half-time Apter was forced off looking in some discomfort and was replaced by Katia Kouyate.  

As the game looked to be heading into the break all square, Isaac Heath punished hesitation within the Birmingham ranks to seize the ball and thread an excellent pass through the defence and into Okoronkwo who cleverly slotted past Mayo to hand the hosts a deserved lead.  

At half-time Everton made an attacking change as Liam Higgins replaced Ebere, however, it was the visitors who started quickest, putting some early pressure on the Everton backline, albeit without really testing Barrett.  

Then just on the hour-mark Kouyate came close to doubling the hosts’ advantage when he made a driving run down the left flank, dribbling into the box but then sliding his effort across goal and agonisingly wide of the goalkeeper’s post.  

The visitors’ first meaningful effort came in the 70th minute when Williams fired a decent shot from outside the box, but the effort was saved by Barrett who got down to his right well.  

Soon after Everton nearly sealed the three points when Kouyate dinked a cross towards the back post where Okoronkwo headed towards goal, however, the effort was well saved by Birmingham’s Mayo.  

Higgins followed up on the rebound but could only drive his effort into the side netting.  

The Blues were made to pay just minutes later when Williams drove through the Everton defence before poking under Barrett to draw the game level.  

In search of a swift response, Tait made his final substitution of the game as Callum Bates replaced Isaac Heath.  

But despite some pressure late on from the hosts, Birmingham were able to hold firm and take a share of the spoils.

Speaking to post-match, Tait said he felt that his team lost their way in the game after making a bright start.  

“The result is what it is, but it’s what goes on between the results that interest me. I thought first half we showed some really good stuff, I thought the lads give a good account of themselves, and we had young boys coming in for the first time.     

“I thought Ben Godfrey was excellent throughout the game. Frankie [Francis Okoronkwo] looked good, but then in the second half, we lost our way a bit.   

“We lost energy, it’s the first game for quite a few of them at this level, I thought we got outpowered and I felt they were just better than us in the second half.”  

Tait continued by stating that he felt his side stopped playing after the break: ”It fizzled out a bit, for different reasons and we stopped doing what we were doing in the first half.   

“We’ve got to find a way to play more football, I don’t think we played enough football, didn’t get the ball down, didn’t switch the play enough to exploit their weak side.”  

The contest was another opportunity for some of the top performers from the Under-18's to stake their claim to become a regular at Under-21 level, and Tait added that Friday’s game can be a good learning curve for those players going forward.  

“There’s loads to pick up and get better at, we will have this group for the rest of the Premier League Cup games, so that’s the rest of November and right into December, so there are plenty of chances to work together and improve.  

“But today showed them the standard that they need to be at and how big the step up is at Under-21's football.   

“It’s different, and if you think you’re just coming to play Birmingham who aren’t a Class One academy so you can take your foot off the gas, then you’ll get a shock because Birmingham actually have some really good players, they played well, especially in the second half.   

“So it’s the standards, ‘this is what you’re in for, get used to it in these next six weeks or so’ and let’s see where we get to.”  

While the Blues didn’t quite get the result they wanted, Tait was keen to highlight the positives from the game, two of which were the performances of Okoronkwo in attack and Godfrey in defence.   

“Frankie was a real positive. Tom Cannon will stay around the first team or in January he will go out on loan, that’s his path, so Frankie is our next number nine.   

“There was a lot of positive things from him there today and hopefully he’s going to do well in the next six months.  

"I really enjoy working with him, he’s enthusiastic, and he’s obviously got loads of good attributes but again he’s not the finished article, he has bits to work on but he’s happy to work on those bits, he’s humble enough to know he has to work on those bits.  

“Ben Godfrey played 75 minutes, he managed 70 in the last game I think, he will be ready for 90 minutes next week then hopefully we can hand him over to the first team fit, fresh and ready to go.” 

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