Everton Under-23s Fall To Experienced Hammers

David Unsworth insists his youthful Everton Under-23 team will profit from the experience of tackling a West Ham side filled with seasoned professionals on Monday.

Josh Bowler scored from the spot to put Everton in front after 10 minutes at Rush Green. Manager Unsworth's team created further openings, too, but ultimately creaked under the weight of pressure applied by the savvy hosts.

The former Fulham full-back, Ryan Fredericks, injected thrust and quality on West Ham's right side, the home team turning the screw before Ademipo Odubeko struck twice in four second-half minutes to turn the Premier League 2 contest on its head.

Harry Tyrer contributed his latest outstanding display in Everton's goal, producing a string of smart stops, and the excellent Bowler was an enduring threat.

West Ham's team included Darren Randolph, the Republic of Ireland international keeper, first-team defender Fabian Balbuena, the Argentine playmaker Manuel Lanzini and 28-year-old Fredericks.

"Four senior players stepped down from their first team today and it was like an old reserve-team game," Unsworth told evertonfc.com. 

"And I have to say, the five were a credit to their club and their manager and they were the difference.

"If we played their normal Under-23 team today, we'd have beaten them comfortably, but we’ve played half a first team.

"We used to have that at this level all the time.

"I’ve said to the players that when I was their age, and [Assistants] John [Ebbrell] and Franny [Jeffers], we’d compete against first-team players and we’d have first-team players helping us as well.

"I was delighted to see that we were playing against five senior players because it doesn’t happen anymore."

The Toffees led for a large part of the game but two quick goals in the second half swung the contest the way of the east Londoners.

It was a case of maker and taker when Bowler opened the scoring in the 10th minute.

The Blues wideman nipped inside of Freddie Potts and was sent somersaulting through the air by a mistimed challenge. He dusted himself down to convert the spot-kick very coolly past Randolph.

Bowler was a threat every time his colleagues fed the ball to him on the left and he should have doubled his tally, and the advantage, on the half hour when he again bamboozled the Hammers defence but undid his fine work with a tepid finish.

The Hammers, in front of a watching David Moyes, had their moments, too, in the first half.

Kai Corbett fired just over from distance, Paraguayan Balbuena headed straight at Tyrer from a corner and a clever flick from skipper Conor Coventry hit the foot of the Everton post.

The opening 45 minutes were very lively and the referee issued three yellow cards. Coventry and Amadou Diallo were cautioned for the hosts for fouls on Rhys Hughes and Kyle John, respectively, and Niels Nkounkou joined them in the notebook for hauling back Potts.

The Hammers were quick out of the traps after the break and Corbett squandered a gilt-edged opportunity to equalise in the opening seconds when he blazed his shot over with the entire goal to aim for.

Tyrer was then pressed into action and responded magnificently with three great saves in quick succession to keep out efforts from Diallo, Corbett and Balbuena.

The best was yet to come from the Blues keeper though.

On 63 minutes, Hammers centre-forward Odubeko had time inside the box to pick his spot and didn’t do much wrong – only to see Tyrer fling himself to his left and palm the effort away.

"Harry played well in goal and I thought Josh and Nathan [Broadhead] were outstanding," said Unsworth.

"Our two centre-halves were great, too, until the last 15 minutes when we had wave after wave of attacks. Fredericks at right-back ran the game.

"We went 4-4-2 to try to help the lads and we went to five in midfield to try to block off wide areas but we couldn’t stop him.

"We were in the game right until the end but realistically it was a tough afternoon for us."

Midfielder Hughes did very well to carry the ball forward and slide a lovely pass into the feet of Charlie Whitaker, who couldn’t get a clean enough strike on the ball to trouble Randolph.

And the game changed in the space of three minutes.

On 74, Odubeko climbed highest inside the Everton box to head home a Fredericks cross and shortly after he was tripped by Con Ouzounidis and got up to score the penalty.

The decision looked harsh on Everton and it meant an unfortunate outcome for the visitors, who had worked so hard to protect the advantage.

Playmaker Lanzini played the 90 minutes for West Ham but was generally well shackled by Unsworth's game players.

"We’ve been like an under-17 team at times this season, so it’s a great learning curve for the boys and I would take that every game," said Unsworth.

"It’s the best way to learn. I’ve been in the game all my life and I know what develops players quickly and it's playing against and with senior players."