Monday 06 May 2013

Barclays U21s: Duffy's Everton eye last four

Ahead of their play-off match against Newcastle, we look at Everton's Under-21s

Shane Duffy often travels with the first team and Under-21s

Throughout the inaugural Barclays Under-21 Premier League premierleague.com has brought the latest news and results from the competition.

As the competition enters its final stages we look more closely at the teams taking part in the play-offs. We start with Everton who qualified by winning Group 1 of the second stage and take on Newcastle United at Goodison Park on Tuesday, 7 May for a place in the semi-finals against Elite Group winners Tottenham Hotspur.

Daniel Alston, of Evertonfc.com, tells us more about the team.

Everton's season so far

Played 26; Won 12; Drawn 8; Lost 6; Goals for: 37; Goals against: 30.
Phase 1: 4th (Group 1)
Phase 2: 1st (Group 1)
Final stage: 7 May, v Newcastle United (H), Goodison Park, 7pm (play-off).

Three players to watch

Shane Duffy
The centre-back joined Everton's Academy system at 16 in 2008. Since then, the tall Derry-born youngster has progressed through the ranks and now captains the Under-21s, while also being on standby should anything happen to first-team veterans Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and John Heitinga. As such, Duffy often travels with both parties and made his first Barclays Premier League appearances in January 2012. This came after his first-team debut in December 2009 in the UEFA Europa League against BATE Borisov.

In between those landmarks, the 21-year-old has spent time on loan at Burnley and Scunthorpe United and also leads the Republic of Ireland Under-21s.

Matthew Kennedy
Signed from Kilmarnock on the final day of the transfer window last summer, the winger has fitted straight in at Finch Farm. The 18-year-old has featured regularly for the Under-21s, while also impressing in the Barclays Under-18s Premier League and FA Youth Cup campaigns. His speed and trickery, as well as an eye for goal, mean he is one of the main sources of creativity and threat within the Blues' youth set-up.

John Stones
Another recent arrival, the 18-year-old arrived on the final day of the January transfer window after an eye-catching emergence at Championship side Barnsley. The England Under-19 international was a right-back for the Tykes, but David Moyes has stated he sees the 6'2" Stones as a potential centre-half. Consequently, he has found himself in both positions for the Under-21s, slotting in seamlessly and showing an appetite for the ball in attack and defence.

Style of play

The Under-21s tend to follow the lead of the first team in formation. For much of this season, both have utilised 4-2-3-1 systems, so players can make an easier transition if selected for the first or second string.

David Moyes' experiment with three centre-backs and two flying wing-backs in March was also replicated by Alan Stubbs' Under-21s, but they have since reverted.  A focal point in attack, usually Greece Under-21 forward Apostolos Vellios, is backed up by pace on the wings and overlapping full-backs. This encourages a free-flowing style of play with several of the attacking players swapping positions during games.

Team strengths

  • High on confidence after 15-game unbeaten run
  • Defensively organised
  • Good set-piece delivery and aerial threat.

Highlight match of the second stage

4 March Everton U21s 3-2 Blackburn U21s

Three goals in the final 14 minutes allowed Everton to come from two down to maintain their unbeaten start to 2013 with a stunning victory over Blackburn Rovers.  The visitors to Southport's Merseyrail Community Stadium were looking to avenge a 3-0 loss in the reverse fixture in January and looked set to do so when they took control through Kellan Daly's early tap-in and a wonderful long-range effort from the impressive John O'Sullivan.

But Ross Barkley gave Everton hope by driving the ball in from a near-impossible angle before Vellios stabbed home to level the scores with four minutes remaining.

Having come from two behind to draw at Sunderland a week prior, it looked as though Alan Stubbs' side were again set to take a point, but there was just enough time remaining for Conor McAleny to provide a cool finish and earn his side what a priceless Group One win.

Manager

Alan Stubbs Making over 190 appearances and scoring 7 goals, Stubbs had two stints at Goodison Park as a player between 2001-05 and 2006-08. The centre-half started his career at Bolton Wanderers, before going on to play for Celtic, Sunderland and Derby County. He then joined the Blues a third time as a coach in September 2008. He began his post-playing days assisting Andy Holden with the reserve team but took over his role after a short transition period, allowing Andy to spend more time with the first team.

Leading appearances Tyias Browning (25+1)

Leading goalscorer Conor McAleny (8 goals from 9+1 appearances)

For more Everton U21 stats click here

First-team experience in 2012/13

A handful of the Under-21s have first-team experience this campaign, with Ross Barkley (2+7), Shane Duffy (3 sub) and Apostolos Vellios (6 sub) featuring across all competitions. There were also Capital One Cup appearances for left-back Luke Garbutt and midfielder Francisco Junior, while John Stones, Matthew Kennedy, Tyias Browning and Mason Springthorpe have been unused substitutes in the Barclays Premier League.

There have been loan spells for Barkley (Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United), John Lundstram (Doncaster Rovers), Jake Bidwell (Brentford) and Johan Hammar (Stockport County).

You can follow developments on Twitter with the Premier League's account @premierleague or via the hashtag #BU21PL

Key Points

  • Ahead of the final stage of the Barclays U21 Premier League we look at the participating teams
  • Daniel Alston, of Evertonfc.com, tells us more about Everton
  • Everton qualified through winning Group 1 and are on 15-match unbeaten run

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