Roving reporter Paul Wright was at Whaddon Road recount his first Under 23 experience on Tuesday night….
The crescent moon glinted in the clear autumn sky as we crested the summit of Cleeve Hill and descended to the Maracana of the Cotswolds, Whaddon Road.
This was to be my first ever Under 23 game and wasn’t too sure what to expect. Niasse was in the starting line up and surely he would stand out at this level.
Only two sides of the ground open. There were a few hundred or so Robinistas and about a hundred Evertonians. The game started in a fairly scrappy manner and Everton scored with their first real attack a low cross was turned in at the near post.
Five minutes gone and the blues one up. The Everton midfield then started to dominate the game with much of the play being centred on the slight figure of Walsh. A player of real promise. Quick feet. A good eye for a pass and not afraid to beat a man using the dying art of the dribble.
To be fair to Cheltenham they did come back into it as the half went on. They enjoyed some success along the flanks and several dangerous crosses flashed across the box with no one able to find a final touch. 1-0 at half time. The blues just about deserving their lead.
The second half began with the blues very much in the ascendency. This was helped by the introduction of McAleny in place of the disappointing Niasse. With Walsh conducting the midfield orchestra. Wave after wave of Everton attacks were denied by the keeper and an increasingly desperate defence. If anything the blues were guilty of overplaying. Trying to score the perfect goal at the expense of being a little more direct.
They were to pay the price for this in the final ten minutes. Cheltenham had brought on their two best players. Pell in midfield and Wright their big centre forward, who was on hand to head in from a cross in the 82nd minute.
Then with five minutes left one of the worst penalty decision I’ve seen was given in Cheltenham’s favour. Sambou clearly won the ball in the area in what was a well judged tackle. Mr Probert pointed to the spot. Even the Cheltenham fans were shocked. Despite protests Wright stepped up and cheekily chipped the keeper to win the game.
The result was a total travesty. How we needed a second goal!
On the whole a really good experience. It was good to see the young players. Hopefully some will make the grade and be our stars of the future!
Let’s start on a negative note. On this showing Niasse has no future. He has pace but his touch and control is so poor. How anyone could think he was worth 13 million is beyond me. Koeman is right to get shut.
On a more positive note, there were a number of players who certainly have potential. Walsh is the obvious stand out in midfield.
He has really quick feet. Spots a pass and can beat a man with ease. My only concern is his size and stature. He is small and slight and was knocked off the ball a number of times. I thought Williams and Henen played well. I was particularly impressed with Henen. He looks so much stronger than Walsh. I feel he has the potential to make it.
Upfront. I liked the pace of Sambou. He has a good touch too. And given our shortage of support for Lukaku I feel that McAleny is worth a try. From what I’ve seen of Valencia, McAleny is very much his equal.
In defence Foulds looked quite assured. A good left foot. The goalie looked good. A bit concerned about the lack of pace of the full backs though.
One final point about Rhino. It was really pleasing to see the positive way the U23’s played the game. They are clearly encouraged to play in an expansive way. Lots of quick passing and it was good to see players not afraid to beat a man. Rhino a future Everton manager. Watch this space….
Paul Wright reporting for Cahill’s Corner Flag