Young Blues Narrowly Beaten At Forest Green

A very young Everton Under-21 side lost their first pre-season friendly of the summer on Wednesday evening, going down 1-0 at Forest Green Rovers.

Mason Holgate skippered the Blues line-up, which was made up predominantly of Academy players, and played the first 45 minutes against the League Two outfit.

Forest Green, having lost to Coventry City 24 hours earlier, started with seven trialists in their team and so keen were they to protect their identity, they were each listed on the official teamsheet as ‘Trialist’.

Martin Sherif threatened to break through early on for Everton but ran out of space and on 12 minutes Isaac Heath tested the home keeper with a close-range effort at the far post after the visitors played a short corner.

Midway through the first period, Heath jinked his way to the byline before teeing up Callum Bates, whose first-time snapshot was well saved by the unidentified trialist in the Forest Green goal.

Everton continued to create the better openings and only a last-ditch challenge denied Sherif when he had a sight of goal after more good work by Heath.

Zan-Luk Leban had to be alert 10 minutes before the interval when a deflected effort nearly looped over him and underneath the bar. The Blues keeper reacted well to touch the ball over.

Leban did even better when he made a terrific save to keep out a powerful header from Zach McKenzie shortly after. The home crowd were on their feet to celebrate a goal when Leban flung himself to his right to palm the effort away.

Forest Green made the breakthrough 60 seconds into the second half when a cross from one of the trialists on the right drifted over Leban and into the net.

Leban did really well on 55 minutes when he made three excellent saves in quick succession to thwart the hosts.

Sherif then squandered a golden opportunity at the other end when a splendid cross from Jenson Metcalfe found him inside the six-yard box but he guided a poor header wide of the target.

Paul Tait made a plethora of changes on the hour and there was a nice moment for Leban when the Forest Green supporters applauded him off.

There was still some life in Everton. Matty Apter charged through on 65 minutes but saw the keeper save his final effort and Liam Higgins headed wide after being picked out by Heath.

There was no way through though and despite a game effort, Forest Green held on.