Norwich City Under-18s head off for their fifth away game in a row, as they play Everton at Finch Farm Training Ground on Saturday (11am kick-off), in the U18 Premier League Cup.
A win over Everton would see the Canaries shoot to the top of the group, with guaranteed qualification to the quarter-finals of the tournament. If a win isn’t going their way, a draw will secure City a second-place finish, meaning they could potentially still see their way through to the quarter-finals.
It’s no easy ask to overcome Everton and it could be the toughest game for the Canaries this season. The Merseyside squad have convincingly won their last three fixtures with high goal counts (3-0, 4-3, 3-1) and currently sit third in the U18 Premier League North with 18 points, just three behind league leaders Manchester City. In regard to the Premier League Cup group, the Canaries’ opponents have carried over their league form, winning their two games against Fulham and Sunderland.
Turning attention to the stats isn’t much of a comfort for the Canaries. The Evertonians have scored the joint second most goals in their league, with an enormous 30, guaranteeing their danger going forward. The one slight positive for City is Everton’s defensive record, having conceded 16 goals this season. This stat doesn’t seem too serious, although Stoke, who are eighth, have conceded the same amount of goals, leaving the question burning of just how leaky Everton are at the back.
The teams last met back in May of the 2016-17 season, a game which ended 2-1 in the Canaries favour.
The danger-man for Everton is Thomas Cannon. The young striker has scored ten times for the Merseyside team this season, providing them 33.3% of their goals.
U18s defender Sean Stewart is ready and waiting for the test, saying the international break has created a good feeling amongst the squad for this weekend’s first game back since their unfortunate 3-3 draw with Swansea.
“I’m feeling good, feeling refreshed. We’ve had a really good few days of training to get back into it, and after a bit of a break last week I think the whole squad is feeling that refreshing factor, so I’m excited and looking forward to getting going.”
Stewart recognises the weight of this game on their Premier League Cup campaign, citing it as a must win. When asked if that realisation has changed anything in the squad, Stewart compared their philosophy to any other game.
“Every Norwich game is the same. Go out and win. We don’t see it any different, every game is a must win in our eyes. Obviously, this time it has a bit more importance, and really is a must win as it’s between us and Everton to progress, but either way it’s no different to how we look at any other game.”
The young Canaries saw the last game before international break end in a 3-3 draw, a result that the players may feel hard done by, albeit a hectic game. Stewart was one of those players, certain that a win should’ve been the only result for City.
“The last game we definitely should have won. We were all over them for the majority of the game. Fair enough to them, in the second half they came on and got momentum, but we were just absolutely all over them. We just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net, which is why we came out with a result we didn’t really want.
“I think collectively this season we were lacking, we weren’t scoring as many goals as we’d like, but the buildup play and the final third is improving, it’s come on a lot better in recent games so hopefully we can continue that.
“That equaliser was a shame, it should have been the winner. It was a great goal from Tyrese [Omotoye], but by no means should it have been an equaliser, it should’ve been the winner we deserved. You’ve got to take it though, because we got a point out of it when we could’ve gone home with nothing after, what I think, was a lucky goal, to be honest.”