STOCKPORT COUNTY FC

County 1-4 Everton U-23s

County Come Unstuck, As Young Toffees Wrap Up Second Half

The Hatters’ second friendly at Edgeley Park also turned out to yield their second defeat, as an archetypal ‘game of two halves’ saw Everton’s Under-23 side come from a goal behind, and score four times in half an hour following the interval.

Three of the goals for the ‘Toffees’ came courtesy of substitutes, as they proceeded to turn on the style during the second half – although County had previously looked the better side and gone in at the break good value for the lead earned by Frank Mulhern’s 15th-minute strike.

The Hatters took to the field in a 3-4-2-1 formation, and showing two changes from the line-up that had started in SK3 against Rochdale four days earlier – with Dan Cowan and Matty Warburton replacing Adam Thomas and the injured Jordan Keane. Former Oldham loanee Kallum Mantack, who had appeared from the bench at Stockport Town earlier in the month, was again named as a trialist among the substitutes.

The visitors’ senior squad was spending the weekend on tour in Portugal, although, in central defenders Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway, they did include in their team at EP two players with Premier League experience. Not that this appeared to faze County in the opening stages, mind – as wing-backs Scott Duxbury and Sam Minihan set about exploiting the respective flanks.

In terms of chances created, the Hatters were also in the early ascendancy – as Ash Palmer connected with a Minihan free-kick from the right to head wide of the far upright, and Darren Stephenson exchanged passes with Warburton before firing into the right side-netting.

With a quarter of an hour played, County deservedly went ahead. A throw-in from the right found Minihan, whose squared pass to Mulhern was fired home from the edge of the six-yard box.

Everton sought immediately to get back on level terms, only for Fraser Hornby to blast well over the Cheadle End crossbar. And when, 10 minutes later, the visiting striker’s aim was more accurate after being played through on goal, his effort was superbly blocked by Ben Hinchliffe.

At the other end, Stephenson represented County’s best hope of increasing the advantage – but his header, from a Cowan cross on the right, was caught by goalkeeper Chris Renshaw, and a subsequent shot was poked narrowly wide of the left post.

HALF-TIME: County 1 (Mulhern, 15), Everton U-23s 0.

Everton re-started proceedings with two substitutes – namely, Nathan Broadhead and Con Ouzounidis – who, as things turned out, were to do much individually to spearhead their side’s second-half recovery. But the Toffees appeared rejuvenated as a unit, too – and Hinchliffe had to be at his best, as he tipped over a Matthew Foulds free-kick and a shot by Bassala Sambou.

Eleven minutes following the resumption, they equalised – as Ouzounidis headed in a cross by Harry Charsley from the right. And within another three, they went ahead – with Broadhead firing home from close range, after the Hatters had struggled to block Sambou’s foray into the box.

Broadhead went close with a header that flew just shy of the far post, following a cross by Alex Denny from the right – before Everton netted for a third time, with 72 minutes on the clock. A shot from captain Dennis Adeniran was blocked by Palmer, only to fall into the path of Sambou who reacted quickly to convert past Hinchliffe.

And four minutes from time, the impressive Broadhead bagged his second to make it four, after latching on to a through-ball from the right by another fellow substitute, Antony Gordon.

FULL-TIME: County 1 (Mulhern, 15), Everton U-23s 4 (Ouzounidis, 56; Broadhead, 59 and 86; Sambou, 72).

Team: Hinchliffe, Cowan (Downing, 73), Duxbury, Turnbull (Capt.), Palmer, Smalley, Minihan (Czubik, 79), Walker (Mantack, 70), Mulhern (Bell, 62), Warburton, Stephenson (Thomas, 62).

Unused Subs: Ormson, Etches.

Attendance: 771.

Reporter: Gareth Evans.

Photographer: James Gill.

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