home team
Connell (5', 5')
Duke-McKenna (34', 34') Gordon (52', 52')
away team
Connell (5', 5')
Duke-McKenna (34', 34') Gordon (52', 52')
Saturday 25 November 2017, 11:00 Blackburn Rovers Training Centre
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  • Blackburn U18
  • Connell 5'
    Connell 5'
  • Carter 73'
    Carter 73'
  • Carter 82'
    Carter 83'
  • Everton U18
  • Duke-McKenna 34'
    Duke-McKenna 34'
  • Gordon 52'
    Gordon 52'

Paul Tait claimed his Everton Under-18 players were a "joy to be around" after the young Blues maintained their title bid with a determined 2-1 victory at Blackburn Rovers.

Tait’s Everton suffered an early blow when Rovers striker Kyle Connell’s fifth-minute, 25-yard thunderbolt defeated the Toffees’ American goalkeeper Nicolas Defreitas-Hansen.

But after withstanding an aerial barrage from their hosts, the Blues gradually asserted their superiority on the contest and midfielder Stephen Duke-McKenna levelled 11 minutes before the break.

Anthony Gordon stroked home from the spot on 52 minutes for his 12th goal in 10 league outings this season following a foul on centre-forward Manasse Mampala in the box.

Blackburn defender Hayden Carter was dismissed after collecting his second booking with three minutes to play, as Everton comfortably repelled their opponents late in the match to complete a fourth Under-18 Premier League success on the bounce.

“It is a really good environment to be in at the moment,” Under-18 coach Tait told evertonfc.com.

“The attitude in training is great, the boys’ confidence is high and they are a joy to be around.

“We were prepared for the way Blackburn would play, we knew they would put the ball in the box and be aggressive.

“We had spoken about it but were not quite ready from the start.

“Blackburn scored a good goal, then had a few more chances and we weathered a bit of a storm.

“Our two, young centre-backs, Elliot Richards and Michael Collins, had to deal with a lot of high balls into our penalty area, which will be really good for their development.”

Duke-McKenna rounded off a slick Everton passing move to equalise. When the ball alighted with the midfielder 20 yards from goal he took aim and, with the assistance of a slight deflection, bent a finish beyond Rovers number one Ben Winterbottom.

Tait revealed he has been urging Duke-McKenna to add goals to his consistently industrious all-round performances.

And he was delighted by the mature manner in which his young charges took on board instructions from their boss to turn around the flow of the match at Blackburn Rovers’ training centre.

“We started to take control about 10 minutes before half time and created some great chances,” said Tait.

“We scored the equaliser, then the message at half-time was to be better without the ball, to improve our shape and pattern – and stand up to Blackburn’s tactics.

“The second half was a different game, we were completely in control but just could not get the third goal.

“Blackburn did get the ball in the box a few times late in the game but never really threatened. Our lads dug in and saw it through.

"We have been asking Stephen to score more goals. He does so much for the team, with his workrate and defensive mentality, and we have just been asking for that little bit more from him in the final third." 

Everton’s courageous victory came seven days after the prolific Gordon had struck in stoppage time to win a match at Newcastle United.

And their rich run of form has propelled the Toffees up to second in the Premier League North table, one point behind Manchester City and above third-placed Manchester United by virtue of having scored more goals than their Old Trafford counterparts.

“We made it clear to the boys, although Newcastle and Blackburn are not in great form at the moment, they would want to turn Everton over – and we would have to be resilient and stand up to them,” added Tait, whose team’s focus will now switch to a Goodison Park FA Youth Cup encounter with Ipswich Town on Friday 8 December.

“We talked at the beginning of the season about wanting to be competitive and up there with City and United. That is where we are at the moment – and we want to stay up there challenging.”