Gomes 'Top-Class' In 5-0 Under-21s Win

Andre Gomes stepped up his recovery with just over 60 minutes of competitive action as Everton Under-21s romped to a 5-0 win against Southampton Under-21s at Finch Farm on Monday evening. 

Francis Okoronkwo netted a hat-trick to steal the show while fine efforts from Lewis Dobbin and Sean McAllister on either side of half-time completed an impressive night's work for Paul Tait's side.

After a slow opening 15 minutes, Lewis Dobbin kicked off the scoring in signature fashion. 

Jenson Metcalfe found the attacker with a fine pass before Dobbin manoeuvred inside the fullback and onto his preferred right foot, from there he fired a precise strike into the near bottom corner of the Southampton net. 

Roman Dixon, who provided non-stop energy down the right flank all night, was on hand to stop a Southampton equaliser with a last-ditch challenge soon after. 

Then, Kyle John had a golden opportunity to further extend Everton’s lead. His leap at the back post looked like it was goal-bound, but his header was straight at the goalkeeper. 

As the contest approached the 25th minute, John made a darting run into the penalty area and hit the floor following a push in the back. The referee awarded a penalty, handing the Blues a golden chance to double their advantage from the spot. 

Okoronkwo stepped up and made no mistake, expertly placing the ball into the top-right corner while sending the goalkeeper the wrong way. 

Senior stars Gomes and Dobbin looked sharp and combined well to hand the Blues another chance to extend their lead soon after, however, the Portuguese midfielder's eventual cross into the penalty area evaded teammates lurking in the middle.

Southampton thought they had pulled one back courtesy of Princewill Ehibhatiomhan, yet his effort was ruled offside.

Okoronkwo came close to adding a second shortly before half-time following some intricate passing with Dobbin. However, his on-target effort deflected off a defender for a corner. 

Immediately following the restart, Okoronkwo, who was a thorn in Southampton's side all night, was thwarted by an outstanding save by Josh Jeffries. 

McAllister and Dixon swiftly exchanged passes, setting up the Everton full-back to deliver an accurate cross to the Blues' striker but the Saints' No.1 at full stretch managed to claw the effort away. 

Yet, just five minutes later that same link-up handed Okoronkwo his deserved reward. Dixon's ball from the right found Okoronkwo inside the penalty area and the forward converted excellently to double his tally for the evening. 

Everton began to run riot as McAllister, heavily involved in the third goal, bagged one of his own. Seizing a short back-pass, he displayed remarkable composure by outmanoeuvring the goalkeeper before calmly slotting home. 

Gomes was replaced shortly after the hour-mark by Halid Djankpata and with 20 minutes of regular time to go, Okoronkwo grabbed his third. 

Substitute Djankpata was fouled inside the penalty area and up stepped Okoronkwo, this time firing the ball the opposite way but still producing the same result, putting the Blues five goals to the good. 

Djankpata squandered a golden opportunity to notch a sixth late on following some fine forward play by Okoronkwo who took home the match ball from what was a great evening's work by the young Blues. 

Speaking to evertonfc.com following the win, Under-21s' boss Tait was keen to praise both the performance and attitude of the returning Gomes: "Andre was excellent. His calmness on the ball was great and you could see he’s a top-class player.

"He was down to play for 60 minutes and when he came off, I told him to go and get a shower but he wouldn’t because he wanted to stay out with the lads and watch the rest of the game. He showed a great attitude and I thank him for that.”

While on the victory, Tait added: "I’m delighted with that, it was an outstanding win. The work rate and the effort were great and the boys were on the front foot from the first minute.  The play, the tactical work, the commitment and the desire on a terrible night weather-wise were all there."