U21 NEWS

Everton Under-21s Edged Out By Forest

Everton Under-21s' late push for a Premier League 2 point just fell short in a 2-1 home defeat to Nottingham Forest at Southport's The Big Help Stadium on Monday night.

A nervy finish saw the visitors survive a barrage of Everton attacks in a spirited display from Paul Tait's side.

Jamie McDonell and an unfortunate Edward Jones own goal gave Forest a two-goal lead that was halved by Harrison Armstrong on the stroke of half-time.

Billy Crellin marked an impressive performance with a great stop to deny Forest a third in the second half as he came out of on top with Joe Gardner in a one-on-one.

Head Coach Tait made four changes to the side that was narrowly defeated by Aston Villa last time out. Lewis Warrington made his return to the starting XI after being recalled from his loan at Plymouth Argyle following injury.

The first chance of the evening fell to the visitors as McDonell’s deflected header whistled wide of the target inside 16 minutes. Jack Perkins whipped in an inviting corner from the right that was met by the head of the Forest skipper who failed to convert.

The young Blues soaked up the early pressure and threatened in the 22nd minute. A great interchange between Hajid Djankpata and Jenson Metcalfe allowed the latter to pull the trigger on the edge of the box. The 19-year-old rifled a shot at goal but was denied by the palms of Aaron Bott.

Forest took the lead on 28 minutes as McDonell nodded home at the back post. A short free-kick was laid off to Perkins, who lofted the ball into a dangerous area where the captain was on hand to give the travelling side the advantage.

Warren Joyce’s side doubled their lead seven minutes later as the ball rebounded off the leg of Jones and rolled over the line. Substitute, Jack Nadin sent in an enticing low cross from the right flank that flashed across the face of goal and hit the unfortunate defender, altering its trajectory and giving the Reds a two-goal cushion.

Armstrong halved the deficit in the 41st minute with a header from point-blank range, however. Metcalfe delivered a sublime corner that arrived at the back post, where the 17-year-old climbed highest and got on the scoresheet.

The visitors came close to restoring their two-goal lead four minutes after the interval but were denied by the outstretched Crellin. Silky footwork saw Gardner weave inbetween four blue shirts, only to be denied by the shot-stopper who made himself big when faced one-on-one.

The Toffees pushed for an equaliser and came close with six minutes remaining through Francis Okoronkwo. Fellow substitute Isaac Heath whipped an inch-perfect cross into the danger area, where the forward glanced a header at goal. Bott came to the rescue for the visitors, leaping into action to claw the late effort around the post.

The hosts came close once more seconds later as Mackenzie Hunt flashed a half-volley inches wide of the post.

Armstrong then headed just wide in the first minute of injury-time as the young Blues dug deep and pushed hard for an equaliser.

Their opponents countered and almost killed the game at the opposite end of the field. Esapa Osong was played through, but failed to beat Crellin who came off his line and was successful in another one-on-one battle.

Everton Under-21s' attention now turns to next week against Fulham at Walton Hall Park on Monday 26 February.

By Ross Hughes