Hunt Hits Late Under-21s Winner At Brighton

An 83rd-minute goal from substitute Mackenzie Hunt gave Everton Under-21s a 2-1 Premier League 2 victory at Brighton & Hove Albion.

With an entertaining game heading for a draw, Kyle John won possession on the Everton right and when the ball was worked infield, Hunt slammed it past the keeper.

It was thoroughly deserved for a spirited display, especially in the second half after the young Blues had gone in a goal down at the break.

Head Coach Paul Tait said: "We were magnificent, especially in the second half. The press, the energy, the running, the fight and the character were really good.

"I was a bit disappointed with the first half because we didn’t get the press right and we showed them too much respect and too much of the ball. But we stayed in the game and gave ourselves a chance. Then in the second half we were out of the traps quickly and we dominated the game. We probably should have won by more goals in the end."

Everton were handed an early opportunity when experienced defender Adam Webster played a shocking pass out of defence straight to the feet of Francis Okoronkwo but the striker’s effort was blocked.

Brighton settled into the game and took the lead in the 10th minute. Samy Chouchane’s shot lacked power, but the ball eluded keeper Zan-Luk Leban and nestled in the corner of the net.

Midway through the first period, Owen Barker did well to release Katia Kouyate on the right but, despite him getting a firm connection on his shot, it was straight at Fynn Talley in the home goal.

If Leban had been culpable for the goal, he certainly made amends just before the half-hour mark.

Cameron Peupion delivered a fine cross from the right and Luca Barrington’s close-range header had ‘goal’ written all over it until Leban acrobatically adjusted himself to push the ball away.

The hosts continued to look the more threatening but more sloppy play at the back presented Okoronkwo with another opening. A defensive block rescued Brighton, who then thought they’d scored again when Marcus Ifill headed the ball into net, only to be flagged offside.

Five minutes into the second period, Leban made another great save, this time to deny Andrew Moran after a swift Brighton counter attack.

Everton equalised in the 54th minute. Kouyate swept the ball into the penalty area from the left and John met it at the far post to head home.

A strong run across the box by Okoronkwo ended when his effort was saved by Talley, who then did well almost immediately to keep out a low drove from Einar Iversen.

Everton were indebted to Leban yet again in the 70th minute when he spread himself to block a shot from Moran and at the other end Talley saved well again to push away Hunt’s effort.

With 10 minutes left, Everton felt they should have a penalty when John appeared to be clipped inside the area but the frustration was eased by Hunt’s late winner.

Tait added: "Kyle John and Ishe Samuels-Smith, the wing-backs, were excellent. Kyle got up and down, won his tackles, scored a goal and created chances. And he should have had a penalty. Wing-back may not be Ishe’s favourite position but he was excellent. But I don’t want to single anyone out because they all contributed. It was just a fantastic team performance.

"Look how hard the front two worked. They worked their socks off and some of the quality that Frankie (Okoronkwo) showed, he was a real number nine for us in that second half."

Everton Under-21s are back in action on Friday when they host Fulham at Southport's Haig Avenue (7pm GMT).