Football: Solace for Everton in Youth Cup glory

Everton 2 Blackburn Rovers 2 Everton win 5-3 on aggregate
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The Independent Online
Everton 2 Blackburn Rovers 2 Everton win 5-3 on aggregate

EVERTON'S chairman, Peter Johnson, had three burly police officers behind him in the directors' box last night and three more in the stand checking on a heckling welcoming committee. He will have this protection and more when he goes in the firing line for Sunday's Goodison encounter with Coventry, which may end Everton's 44-year reign in the top flight.

But such distractions did not affect Everton's youngsters, who completed their FA Youth Cup success against Blackburn with the kind of early goal boost the first team would pay to have at the weekend.

Francis Jeffers, their youngest and arguably brightest talent, headed his team into the lead within two minutes. Jeffers is so highly rated that Everton have signed him on a six-year contract, making him one of the best paid teenagers in the game. His progress was halted recently by a viral complaint, but it had not weakened his instincts. Jamie Milligan flighted a free-kick to the far post, where Jeffers headed home off the underside of the bar.

Rover's Martin Taylor went close with a shot but David Dunn's careless free-kick betrayed their sagging emotions. Rovers had nothing to lose and Peter Murphy came forward from left-back to see a shot headed off the line by Michael O'Brien before they equalised. David Dunn looped a shot towards goal, and Gary Hamilton put the ball over the line.

Milligan tried to calm Everton nerves, but Blackburn had taken the initiative and Jon Topley went close with a header as they tried to claw back another goal. But Everton made sure of lifting the Premier Youth Trophy for the first time since 1984 when Adam Eaton lobbed in a shot on the run in the 69th minute. Not even the best goal of the night, in the 85th minute, supplied by substitute Stephen Hawe for Blackburn, could deprive the majority of the 15,258 crowd of some rare celebration.

Everton (4-4-2): Delaney; Regan, Dunne, Farley, Eaton; Jevons, Poppleton, O'Brien, Milligan; Cadamarteri, Jeffers (Hibbert, 76). Substitutes not used: Knowles, McLeod.

Blackburn (4-4-2): Stewart; Richardson, Taylor, Brown (Hawe, 72), Murphy; McAvoy, Dunn, Scates, Baldacchino (Ryan, 67); Topley (Connelly, 82), Hamilton.

Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).