Everton U23 0-1 Sunderland U23: How did Paddy McNair and other first team challengers get on?

McNair completed an hour as his comeback continues
McNair completed an hour as his comeback continues
Have your say

Josh Maja suffered a setback in his return from a knee injury after withdrawing from Sunderland's fine 1-0 win over Everton U23's.

The 18-year-old was named in the team but did not start as a precautionary measure, with his injury not thought to be serious at this stage.

Paddy McNair played an hour as the Black Cats resisted significant second half pressure to take all three points through winger Luke Molyneux.

Neither side were able to create a great deal in a first half played at a tepid tempo, both teams comfortable with the ball near their own goal but unable to create clear-cut chances at the other end.

The Black Cats moved the ball well but missed Maja's poise and presence with back to goal up front.

Luke Garbutt, a 24-year-old with Premier League experience for the hosts, was the stand-out player on the pitch and went close in the opening ten minutes when his shot from the left passed James Talbot's far post.

Garbutt had another great opportunity to test Talbot minutes before the break, but his free-kick from the edge of the area was blocked by the Sunderland wall.

The Black Cats had their best chance of the game early in the second half, when the impressive and energetic Denver Hume broke downfield. His pass inside for the advancing Ethan Robson was perfect but the youngster could only slice his effort straight at Joel Robles.

From there Everton, last season's Premier League 2 Champions, took control as Jose Baxter dropped deeper into midfield. He went close with a superb first time effort on the half-volley just before the hour, Talbot unmoved as the ball flashed past his post.

Striker Bassala Sambou then missed two golden opportunities, the first as he chipped over the bar from a lofted pass. Minutes later, an excellent cross took Talbot out of the game and left Sambou with an open goal, but he could only strike over the bar.

Everton continued to threaten with substitute Shayne Lavery forcing a good save from Talbot, but the Black Cats struck against the run of play as Elliot Embleton released winger Luke Molyneux, who struck the ball across Robles and into the far corner.

Morgan Feeney went close with two late headers, the latter after a fine delivery from Luke Garbutt, but the hosts were unable to turn their pressure into a goal.


McNair played an hour in his longest outing yet. Judging by Duncan Watmore's return from a similar injury, playing three games in the U23 set-up before returning to the matchday squad, the midfielder will be in contention when Bristol City travel to Wearside next weekend.

As Simon Grayson has already pointed out, however, playing in the heart of midfield requires greater physicality and the Northern Ireland midfielder looks like he may be a little short of full match fitness at the moment. He showed good energy at Finch Farm and made some good runs into the channel in the opening half hour, unlucky to see some good crosses from a promising area turned out for a corner. In a tepid game he was unable to get near the box as much as he would have liked and understandably faded in the second half.

The U23's are back in action a week on Monday against Manchester United at Eppleton and it will be interesting to see whether McNair gets further minutes in that game before returning to the first team picture.


The Swedish prodigy looked set to be pushed out to the wide areas by Maja's presence but an injury to the latter gave Asoro a big opportunity up front. There was one promising run in the first half as he beat two defenders but generally speaking he was marshaled all too easily by Everton's centre-backs.

Asoro struggled to hold the ball up and was guilty of gifting away possession too often. The Black Cats were only able to fashion one clear-cut chance in the game and a lack of presence up front was a big factor in that.


The pair have been pushing for first team inclusion and showed their potential in patches at Finch Farm.

Robson missed one of the best chances of the game, slicing his effort after being released by Denver Hume. He was an influential presence in the first half, often dropping deep from the number ten role to try and influence a flat game. Rarely gave the ball away and showed his composure on the ball, but his influence waned as Jose Baxter helped Everton's midfield take control of the game.

Embleton showed his discipline in a deeper role, and played a part in Molyneux's late winner. A positive display from the from the 18-year-old.