Everton first-team squad index drops as U23 game ends with triple red card

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Three late red cards, a central defender finishing as an attacker and all around the seat in added time.

Just another perfectly normal night watching Everton’s Under-23s, then.

The Young Blues were in action against Manchester United at Southport on Friday night knowing that a win would take them two points above their opponents in the Premier League table two.

Both teams came into the game with just one win under their belt, making it an important game – which the visitors won thanks to an early goal.

United broke Everton’s left flank which has been a problem this season as there was no natural left-back in the setup as it stands, and Anthony Elanga was on hand to just tap in the cross for the only goal of the match.

To look only at the score and to pass a quick judgment on the young Blues would however do them a very bad service.

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For the rest of the game, David Unsworth’s side certainly didn’t deserve to lose. Especially after half-time the hosts were the better team and could have scored another night.

Maybe if they had had their two main attackers on the pitch, they would have found the back of the net.

Neither Tom Cannon nor Lewis Dobbin were involved with the squad on Friday night, the latter having been pulled out through injury earlier in the week in a loss to Leicester City.

However, the 18-year-old then liked a tweet asking him if he was involved with the first team on Saturday. Potentially drop a clue? Or just have a little fun without being involved in the team?

Anyway, the young Blues missed their first two, especially in the first half. Charlie Whitaker has played the central hitter role before, but he needed Rafa Garcia’s introduction at halftime to really show his quality in this one.

That is, before he was sent for an early bath.

The carnage erupted just at the end of the game as Whitaker suffered a foul on the other side of the pitch from the stands, before being pushed again by another United player.

The Everton youngster responded by throwing the ball at his opponent, causing a scrum that involved all but two of the players on the pitch.

Even Joe Anderson, playing as a left-back, sprinted across the pitch to jump and help his teammates. You suppose it shows a strong spirit among this group of guys, if nothing else.

Visitors had Bjorn Harley and Elanga kicked out for the incident, the latter throwing a bottle at the dugout as he descended the tunnel in what was a blown endgame.

With Whitaker away and still chasing the goal they so desperately deserved, Unsworth took one of his three center-backs and put them up front in an attempt to beat United’s defense.

Jarrad Branthwaite was the man in charge who ran the show at the center of defense for the majority of the game. Gaining his first few minutes for a few weeks, it was great to see him in action again.

But unfortunately, he could not trigger a late goal for the Blues, despite the fact that he descended into the box in search of a penalty in the last moments.

Looking at the results out of context gives a very different picture of this Under-23 team than looking at them for a full 90 minutes, it really shows.

This performance was a perfect example.

There was a lot more positive than negative to come out of this game. Jack Barrett put in a solid performance in front of goal. Branthwaite, Ryan Astley and Reece Welch were also strong at center-back. Sean McAllister was a constant threat from the bench. Kyle John was back from injury.

But, they have no point to show for all of their efforts. And, maybe before this article, the only thing you read about this game was the fact that Everton had a center-back up front for the final stages.

It doesn’t tell the whole story, the score doesn’t tell the whole story. They are a young and relatively inexperienced team at this level, but they are learning game by game.

Results will come, better performance will come. Friday night, they showed a lot of heart and courage.

And not just by entering a late scrum.


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