Everton U21s v Chelsea U21s
Everton Under-21s extended their unbeaten run to 14 matches after being held to a second successive nil-nil draw.
But it was a pleasing point for Alan Stubbs who declared himself delighted with the way his young team performed against an experienced Chelsea side.
Having already secured the Group One title, Everton’s Under-21s coach handed several academy players their opportunity, including Russell Griffiths, Joe Williams and Ryan Ledson who all made their debuts.
For large parts of the game, the Blues dominated proceedings, particularly in the second half where a little more nous in the final third could have resulted in maximum points.
The first 45 minutes were rather uneventful with clear goalscoring chances few and far between.
Everton actually conjured their best opportunity of the half in their first attack of the game when Chelsea goalkeeper Jamal Blackman denied Williams after a jinking run through midfield from George Green.
Striker Milan Lalkovic was Chelsea’s main threat and he spurned the visitors’ best opening after half an hour.
The Slovakian, who had earlier planted a header over the crossbar, seized on a loose backpass but clipped his finish against the outside of the post after being presented with a clear run on goal.
Lalkovic also saw a goalbound effort blocked by Luke Garbutt, while Johan Hammar headed onto the roof of the net as Everton rallied just before the interval.
The Toffees emerged for the second half with much more intent and within 10 minutes of the restart they twice came close to breaking the deadlock.
Williams blazed over from 20 yards following a half-cleared corner and Green, having been fed by Gethin Jones, raced into the area and fired narrowly wide of the far post.
The second half was all about Everton as the Blues continued to take the game to their London opponents. Ledson, substitute Chris Long and Green again were all off target with drives from just outside the area.
Even full-back John Stones saw a late effort blocked as the Blues remained purposeful right through to the very end.
Time eventually ran out for Everton who are now just one game away – a visit to Aston Villa next Monday – from achieving Stubbs’ target of going through the second half of the league season without tasting defeat.