Everton 2 (Hubner (OG) 25, McAllister 90) Wolves 3 (Kandola 53, 57, McLeod 90)
Two goals in four minutes from defender Kam Kandola and a first goal for schoolboy Ethan McLeod secured a fifth successive league victory for Wolves under-18s against Everton.
Both Wolves and Everton came into the game battling at the top end of the U18 Premier League North table, but it was the team in gold and black who took the spoils, despite falling behind before the break to an unfortunate own-goal.
The young Wolves side showed the character which has been a shining brightly in many matches this season for Steve Davis’ boys as they hit back to take the lead early in the second-half through Kandola’s quickfire double.
The centre-back’s first came from a free-kick which was whipped towards the near post by Jack Hodnett, and with three players jumping with the Everton keeper Zan-Luk Leban, the ball instead dropped to Kandola in the box who was able to swivel his body round and hook his effort into the net from a tight angle.
The Wolverhampton-born defender notched his second of the afternoon just minutes later to give Wolves their first lead of the match. From a well-worked short corner, Harry Birtwistle aimed his cross to the far post and Kandola was in the right place to head the ball past Leban.
Wolves secured the three points as the game entered added time when substitutes Erik Bugarin and McLeod combined after Joe Young had found the Spaniard on the wing, who hit a first-time pass across the pitch to his strike partner, with the 16-year-old finishing off the quick counter-attacking move in style.
Moments before the final whistle blew, Everton pulled a consolation goal back through Sean McAllister, but it was too little too late for the Toffees, as Wolves too the points to extend their winning league run to five matches.
On a fifth win in succession
“It was a really good game,” Davis said. “I felt we had to battle hard with Everton because they were quite a big and physical side and the make-up of our team isn’t like that, so we have to try and find a different way to compete against those kinds of teams by moving quicker and passing the ball better.
“We found it difficult to break them down and there weren’t many chances in the first-half. We had a few long-range shots and hit the post from a free-kick, but couldn’t really open them up and found it difficult to get around them, through them or over them, but going in a goal down, we knew we needed to try and force the game a little bit.
“In the second-half we tactically went higher with the front three to try and apply a bit more pressure when they were playing out. Kam’s two quick-fire goals stunned them a little bit, and the second was from a well-worked short corner which the lads came up with.
“But I felt we sat back too much then and allowed them to come back into the game, without causing us massive problems, and we had a few defensive moments that we had to deal with, but generally saw it off quite well.
“The third goal was fantastic. We only had three touches of the ball to score a goal. ‘Youngy [Joe Young] caught the ball from a cross, he threw it out to Erik who had made a great run down the side, he played it first time across the other side of the pitch to Ethan who hit it first time into the bottom corner.
“It was a great result. Coming back from 1-0 down to lead 3-1 showed a lot of character that the group's got.”
On adding the experience of Young and Scott
“Joe and Jack needed game time, so they came down from the under-23s and we eased them back into it. They haven’t played a lot of football recently, so we knew it was going to be a tough game for them, but they were fine.
“With Jack coming at right wing-back, we moved Harry [Birtwistle] to play as a 10 because I wanted him to keep his momentum going, and with his pace I thought he would cause a lot of problems in that position. He found it tough in terms of positional understanding, which is expected, but he caused a lot of problems at times, so I was pleased with how they adapted.”
On a confidence boost for the goalscorers
“It was good to get Ethan and Erik on. Erik had a very good week in training and deserved to be involved in some way, and as well as setting up the goal, he almost set up another one for Ethan just before that after cutting inside and playing a great little square pass, so they both had a massive impact on the game.
“But that’s what they’ve got to do. If they’re not starting, then you want the subs to come on and make an impact.
“We were all pleased for Ethan. He’s only a young schoolboy and he missed an easier chance from another Erik pass just prior to his goal. He tried to have an extra touch instead of taking it first time, and he learnt for his second chance. He was further out and across from the goal with a harder chance than the first, but he struck it first time, across his body – which was great technique – into the bottom right-hand corner. He learnt from his mistake, which is exactly what you want the young lads to do in the game.
“We’re also really pleased for Kam with the two goals and he had a good game in defence as well, and that will give him confidence, like all of them when they’re winning games. It gives them confidence to try other things and hopefully we’ll see what happens next week against Man United.”
Due to their batch of away fixtures to begin the season, Wolves now have a host of home ties to face in the coming months, but next up for the under-18s will see Davis’ side invite league leaders Manchester United to Compton Park on Saturday (12th December) as the two form teams in U18 Premier League North go head-to-head.
On a United side who have won their last six
“The lads are looking forwards to it. When you’re performing well, individually and as a team, you’re always looking forward to the next one. These good results do build confidence, and I think that’s growing. The team has also been growing in terms of improvement from the summer, but it’s been a difficult season so far with everything that’s been going on, but they’ve done fantastically well.
“This weekend will be our sternest challenge. Liverpool was a tough game, then we’ve had Middlesbrough and Everton who were also tough.
“These are all the teams who are right up there at the top of the table and very difficult to play, but none more so than Man United, who are bang in form, have some good young players and will be our sternest test.”
12/12 Manchester United (H)
18/12 Norwich City (H) FAYC
09/01 Newcastle United (H)
20/01 Aston Villa (H) U17PLC
23/01 Burnley (H)
Everton: Leban, Higgins, Campbell, Welch, Small, Warrington, Kouyate, Jagne, Dobbin, McAllister, Cannon.
Subs: Stewart, Kristensen, Whitaker, Butterfield, Price.
Wolves: Young, Scott, Kandola, Tipton, Hubner, Lembikisa, Hesketh, Scicluna, Hodnett, Birtwistle, Harkin.
Subs: Arinbjornsson, Keto-Diyawa, Rees, McLeod, Bugarin.