Youngsters progress in Premier League Cup
Town’s Under-21 side progressed to the Round of 16 of the Premier League Cup thanks to a good 2-0 win over Everton at the John Smith’s Stadium this afternoon.
Frankie Bunn fielded a young side – Oscar Gobern was the only overage player on the day – against an Everton side that featured six players who featured in the Club’s Europa League game against Russian side Krasnodar barely a week ago and his team fully deserved the victory after a particularly impressive second-half performance.
Town will now play at home to either Brighton or Charlton at the next stage; those two teams face off next week.
Everton threatened early when striker Chris Long broke Town’s defensive line down the right channel and crossed for teammate Conor McAleney, but he turned his first time effort onto the roof of the net.
Town fought back immediately, but Duane Holmes turned down a decent shooting opportunity just over 20 yards out. Instead he tried to scoop a very difficult pass into Flo Bojaj’s pass and the goalkeeper snuffed out the danger.
Both sides battled hard to gain the advantage and it took an excellent defensive touch from centre back Joe Wright to divert McAleney’s dangerous cross to safety in the 18th minute, whereas minutes later the impressive Jacob Hanson covered around from right back in brilliant fashion to kill an Everton counter-attack in its tracks following Bojaj’s errant pass.
Town’s best period of the first-half came around the half hour mark, but they couldn’t capitalise.
First William Boyle’s left-sided cross resulted in Bojaj getting across the goalkeeper well, but he couldn’t get the definite touch that would have seen the ball drop inside the far post.
Then Academy graduate Bojaj did hit the target, only for visiting goalkeeper Griffiths to pull off a smart stop. The striker powered a header towards goal after Philip Billing did brilliantly to dig out a cross by the left corner flag but the effort was just too close to the custodian, who pushed the ball away.
Everton still carried a threat and gave Town a stark reminder minutes later. Ben Atkinson gave Kieran Dowell too much space on the ball and the Evertonian slipped a clever reverse pass into the dangerous McAleney. His chest control inside the area was great, but his shot was well smothered by the well-positioned Lloyd Allinson and striker Long blazed the rebound high and wide.
Town’s progression to the next round was aided by an early second-half goal. After Holmes was tripped on the right, left back William Boyle stepped across to swing the free-kick into the box. His delivery was excellent and with the ‘keeper pinned on the spot as Bojaj looked to get his head on the ball, Boyle’s cross evaded everyone and dropped inside the far post.
After the opener, Bunn’s side took control and rarely looked threatened. Billing tested the goalkeeper with a powerful long range strike that took a deflection before Everton fashioned their only real chance of the half – Allinson keeping out McAleney’s close range header with a smart reaction save.
Goal-scorer Boyle forced goalkeeper Griffiths to push his over-hit cross over the crossbar soon after.
The big chance to extend the lead came with 20 minutes remaining – and Town capitalised. Holmes chipped the ball into the penalty area towards the chest of Bojaj and the striker was flattened from behind, leaving the ref with no choice but to award a spot-kick.
Up stepped Holmes to put the tie beyond doubt and made no mistake, slotting the penalty comprehensively into the bottom right corner.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Lloyd Allinson; William Boyle (c), Joe Wright, Joe Wilkinson, Jacob Hanson; Philip Billing, Oscar Gobern; Sondre Tronstad, Duane Holmes (Ben Holmes, 88), Ben Atkinson (Regan Booty, 80); Flo Bojaj (Rekeil Pyke, 87)
Ed Wilczynski, Daniel Carr
Philip Billing (74)