Feeney On Everton Under-23s Motivation For Chelsea Contest

Morgan Feeney says Everton Under-23s’ clash with unbeaten Chelsea at Southport on Friday (7pm) represents the “perfect opportunity” to underline an encouraging start to 2020.

David Unsworth’s side has not lost in three league games and last week convincingly beat Fulham in the Premier League Cup, with January signing Jarrad Branthwaite handed a debut next to captain Feeney at centre-half.

Defending Premier League 2 champions Everton are currently seventh but returning to the sort of form which saw them start the season undefeated in seven matches.

And Feeney insists his team – who drew 3-3 with Arsenal in their most recent league fixture – will “back ourselves” to blow a hole in Chelsea’s proud record.

The Londoners have won eight and drawn six of their 14 games to sit top of the table.

“We’re anticipating a tough game, Chelsea are doing well this season but we won the title last year and feel like we can beat them," Feeney told evertonfc.com.

“We’ve watched clips and know they’re a good side but we always back ourselves to win.

“There is a rivalry between us and the other big sides in the division and that gives it an extra edge.

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01:00

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“In the past few games we’ve started to look more like ourselves, we are scoring a lot and have come back into our own a little bit.

“We are relishing this game, we had a good result [against Fulham] last week and played well against Arsenal and could have won.

“Friday is the perfect opportunity for us to do well against a very good side and continue to make progress.”

Feeney, who was also a title winner with Everton Under-23s in 2016/17, has featured 11 times in the league this season and scored in a 1-1 draw with Southampton earlier this month.

Everton’s goals in the following two matches – against Arsenal and Fulham – were shared between teenage strike pair Ellis Simms and Manasse Mampala, defender Lewis Gibson, and Dennis Aderniran, who netted twice from midfield in the 4-2 victory over former club Fulham.

Nineteen-year-old Simms, who hit a double in the Arsenal draw, is one of a handful of players stepping up from Everton’s Under-18 side, manager Unsworth steadily introducing 18-year-old midfielders Rhys Hughes and Sebastian Quirk, along with another midfielder in Tyler Onyango, who is 16.

“We had a bit of a blip [in October and November], there were a lot of injuries and sometimes you are integrating young players in the team," said Feeney.

“You go through transition periods… we have conceded some sloppy goals and made some individual errors which are uncharacteristic but can be knocked out easily.

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01:57 Wed 22 Jan 2020

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“We want to integrate the young lads, finish the season strongly, like we always do, and see where it takes us.

"Dennis is a powerful lad, if he bursts past someone it is very hard to stop him.

“If he gets a goal in a game he can go on to get more.

“He was unlucky to not get a hat-trick the other night and is a player who has plenty of goals in his game."

Feeney could potentially line up next to former Carlisle United player Branthwaite for a second time against Chelsea.

Regardless of the identity of the man alongside him, though, the 20-year-old is keen for Everton to rediscover the solidity which made them far and away the division's most miserly team last season. The Blues conceded only 14 goals in 22 league matches, 13 fewer than next best pair Brighton & Hove Albion and Liverpool.

“The result is always the most important thing but it is bittersweet as a defender when you don’t keep a clean sheet and we’ve not had as many as we’d like,” added Feeney.

“Jarrod has been brilliant, he has trained well and settled in right away.

“He is a good lad, which is important, and it feels as if he’s been with us all season.

“It’s the same with the young lads who have made the step up: Rhys, Seb and Tyler.

“They are doing well and it is good to have them round.

“We [senior players in the side] can hopefully pass on things we’ve learned in the past few years and help them develop."

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