There was very much a friendly feel to last nights game, a general chatter rather than constanting chanting, an unfamiliar tactics coupled with fresh faces and even different coloured training kit in the dugout. It felt very much like an LDV Vans game of old, or an Autoglass Windscreens Shield.
Predictably City gave a run-out to some ‘fringe’ players if it is possible to have such a thing with our squad. Ollie Palmer started up front in a 4-3-3 formation, Billy Knott and Elliott Whitehouse played in midfield with Michael Bostwick sitting deeper. Josh Ginnelly and Jordan Maguire-Drew provided width, or rather in a 4-3-3 provided support. Luke Waterfall got a start as did Farms, familiar players that have fallen down the pecking order.
I have to say, we started the game with the sort of intensity that was more recognisable last season. It may have been the switch from two holding midfielders to one, it may have been a conscious thing knowing the opposition and the fact it is a cup competition, whatever the facts we came out of the blogs like a team possessed. Maguire-Drew opening the scoring after a couple of minutes, Josh Ginnelly got free on the left hand flank, perhaps should have scored but his shot cannoned back off the post to the feet of JMD. He reacted quickly and slotted the ball home. 1-0, a judging by his celebration I’d say he was fairly happy with his goal.
Whilst the young Everton plays passed and moved well, fluid and in nice patterns, they lacked something you expect a youth team to lack, physicality. One or two of their boys looked strong and none looked half-hearted, but I didn’t see one of them that looked comfortable being asked to challenge Michael Bostwick in the air. I overheard someone jokingly refer to it as ‘men against boys’. How apt.
The second goal came for a dead-ball situation, something not often seen at Sincil Bank. Amusingly after the foul it appeared as though Ollie Palmer wanted the free-kick. Billy had the ball in his hands, Ollie turned to him and Billy threw it over his head to JMD. Momentarily Ollie didn’t look happy and it appeared as though he wanted to wrestle the ball from JMD. That clearly wasn’t going to happen, we’ve heard the youngster has a nice free-kick and he wanted to make sure we saw it.
Boy, am I glad he hung on to the ball. There was no run up as such, no procrastinating or shimmy, nothing at all to suggest he was going to do anything other than score. He took three steps max and curled a delicious ball over the wall and into the goal. It wasn’t even top corner, it was just sublime. Up and over the wall and back down to a height the keeper couldn’t get in the flick of his boot. Stefan Oakes was once billed as being able to peel carrots with his left foot, I’m pretty sure JMD could peel, slice and cook potatoes. He certainly roasted their keeper.
His emotional celebration underlined how much criticism on social media must get to players. He urged the crowd for more noise, whether for him or the team it was certainly passionate. Fair play, I’ve said for a long while we have a special player and I really hope we see that come to the fore over the next few weeks.
After that the game began to match the atmosphere. I’ll be dealing with the whole boycott impact in another blog later (and it will be the last I do), but the game continued in the vein of a friendly. Their lads were good footballers and they had numerous efforts at goal, not good efforts but nonetheless they attacked well. Farms didn’t have too many saves to make, not in the first half.
Jordan Maguire-Drew controlled the show on his flank, cutting in to offer support wherever he could. He wasn’t greedy whilst looking for his hat trick either. On the other hand Ollie Palmer, ploughing a loan furrow up front, did just that. When Ollie gets his head down to run, it doesn’t come back up and on two or three occasions he ran himself into danger last night.
At half time I grabbed a coke in the rain (that wet rain, you know the stuff) and the queues were very Football League. I’d sat in the Coop Lower for a different experience, one I won’t be having again. The lower is not the place for me I’m afraid.
Everton came out in the second half with a bit more panache and composure about their play. We did too, we introduced the new boy Cameron Stewart for Josh Ginnelly. At 2-0 up and playing against boys I thought the game lost a bit of its intensity, certainly for us. However, it was promising to note Stewart’s ability on the ball, assured to the point of being cocky and full of little flicks and smart passes. What he did well was cut inside and provide link up with the midfielders behind Ollie Palmer. One f the criticisms of our front players has been a lack of goals, another thing the wingers have received negative comments for is their cutting inside and playing on the opposite flank. Last night, did we get a glimpse of the actual master plan? Does Danny put a left footer and the right and vice versa, because thy are meant to be cutting inside and playing neat passes with the ten, allowing the main centre forward time to find space? Cameron Stewart certainly had that in abundance, He linked up well with Billy Knott in particular.
We also saw the arrival of Ellis Chapman, the youngster that we’ve heard so much about and, as yet, seen nothing. The beauty of this competition is it allows us to blood these youngsters, especially as we were playing boys. He was an age group where he wouldn’t be out muscled every time he got on the ball. He had a good start, the boy clearly has bags of technique playing one of two lovely balls through. He’s 16, he’s going to be raw and have a long way to go, but if you have natural technique and a good attitude, you’ll go a long way. Sure, he has to bulk up, but you name me a young player that looked physically ready for the mans game at 16? When I was 16 there was more meat in a Double M’s burger than on my frame, I got knocked off a football if someone within ten feet of me. Ellis scrapped when he needed to, energetically and with commitment. I hear the boy is special, lets hope we progress in this competition so we can see some more of him.
Eventually Everton did get a goal, the city back line had played very well, Luke especially. against boys you expect those strong players to have a real impact, there’s no doubt Everton came more into the game once Bozzie went off. Luke headed well, tackled well and was vocal throughout. I really like Luke and it was great to see him with the armband on again, if only for one night. I really like Farms to and he had a good night, although I’m sure he would have liked a clean sheet.
Their goal was a bit scrappy, it set up a nervous final ten minutes, then the referee found five minutes injury time in a game where nobody really wanted it to carry on that long. Everton probed but didn’t look like levelling, we just kicked it away whenever they came near and eventually the man in the middle ended the game.
Overall, a good night of football. It was a competitive friendly, one booking perhaps but no real nasty challenges. We’re in a great position to progress to the next round now meaning at least two more games in the competition, two more matches where we’ll argue until we’re black and blue, call each other names and debate the intricacies of the boycott, but ultimately two more games where players like JMD gain confidence or players like Ellis Chapman gain minutes. Let us not lose sight of the benefits in footballing terms here, whatever the politics.