Well, this is new! An U23s report from your intrepid, but let’s face it for this fixture, almost local reporter.
A quick schlep down the A52 from Nottingham takes you to Pride Park, or whatever sponsor-ridden name it is these days, a modern but actually rather good stadium, packed to the rafters with a capacity 33,500 people to watch this vital (for us) PL2 fixture. OK, don’t be picky, take the 33 off that attendance number.
I’ve been unlucky enough to watch some pretty low quality local games of late, and for the first 40 minutes of this fixture, I can honestly say that Everton U23s play was better than anything I’ve seen at Forest vs Brighton (or ‘Duffy-Watch’ as I called it) and certainly an FA Cup replay when a pretty dreadful Notts County beat an even more dreadful Borehamwood. This goes some way to give hope that in our emerging yoof set up, we have some stars of the future. Bear in mind also, that 10 of the starting XI last night could have played in an U20 League, and that it didn’t contain first team lads like Davies, Lookman, or Calvert-Lewin. Whether they all make it through to the Premiership, let alone to the Everton first team, time will tell – there are a few rough edges to be knocked off some players first, and as a team, they need to avoid nodding off towards the end of a half they dominated to allow Derby (average at best frankly) to score not once but twice, both well taken goals by their young Danish striker, Emil Jakobsen (unusual Danish name it isn’t). But after Scottish International Anya inexplicably completely missed the target with the goal gaping in front of his bullet header from a simple cross, the lads re-grouped, switched formation a bit, and with the benefit first of a dodgy penalty, and then an excellent Henen strike, the result better reflected the dominance and better all round play from the Boys in Blue.
Who stood out?
Kenny. Every day. Every way. This lad looks the part, plays the part, and quite clearly IS the part. At Right Back he was solid and mildly adventurous (not quite Coleman-esque going forward), but when moved in to CB and Holgate shunted to RB, both players excelled still further from their excellent work to date, apart from a couple of blips from Holgate (who increasingly looks the best option at RB as cover for Seamus). Kenny was a superb skipper, very vocal, and although not the tallest at under 6ft, he has a decent leap on him, and was the stand out player for me.
Holgate was ok, but maybe suffered from delusions of grandeur in the first 20 mins or so, and tried a bit too much of the clever stuff, and also looked to have met Pennington almost for the first time as there were a couple of ‘after you Claude’ moments as each expected the other to clear. But, as I say, at RB he was excellent, and he’s got some pace on him the lad.
Pennington, solid and dependable by and large, although should have got closer to Jakobsen for the headed goal; actually he ended up a bit under the ball. He isn’t back to his best yet, but he’s not 23 until October, so still learning.
Also on a learning curve is Antonee Robinson. Firstly, spell your name right lad. Secondly, remember to clear your lines when the moment dictates. And thirdly, keep doing what you’re doing keeping nice and tight to your winger, denying Anya any space and time to deliver crosses or show off his trickery.
Midfield? Walsh was great for the first 40 minutes but then suffered the same malaise as the team and dropped his intensity, which only picked up intermittently in the second half. What I love about him is he demands the ball, everywhere, and I mean everywhere, and he puts in a tackle too. His penalty couldn’t possibly have been saved either, not by anyone, certainly not the Jordan Pickford lookalike in the Derby net.
Dowell – good in parts, excellent free kick, but gave the ball away more than I expected, but a versatile midfielder, and still on the ‘potential’ list for me, having been overtaken by Davies, his mate. Williams was sound, if not remarkable, but clearly on a long road back from injury. Charsley, shown on the cover for this article for Sambou’s excellent goal, and HC himself was all over the pitch, in a good way. A few flashes of brilliance, and a few flashes of ‘not-their-son’ as he gave the ball away. All judgement comes with experience.
Sambou has got some pace on him; needs a bit more meat on his bones, but by heck he gets about the pitch in no uncertain terms. Shortly before being subbed, and 90 mins were up, he was sprinting across the pitch to close down another Derby attempt to lob a siege bomb in to our box. Good prospect. Duffus too, held the ball up well, effective target man, probably needs an extended loan, but he’s 21 and will he make it….not sure yet.
And Hewelt. Good leaps and takes for crosses, a couple of easy saves, and no chance with either of their goals, but solid enough.
All to the tune of Colonel Unsworth dispensing menacing glares as well as barked orders from the Technical Area.
A Grand Night Out. Rubbish beer, and Puke-a Pies, but decent hospitality from the Rams.
But fun and interesting to see our stars of the future.