Everton Under-18s returned to action after a month-long break with a gritty 2-1 victory at Blackburn Rovers in Premier League (North).

A first-half opener from Katia Kouyate was enough to give the young Blues the lead at half-time. And, despite an equaliser from the hosts early into the second half, Charlie Whitaker bagged his third goal of the season just past the hour mark to give Paul Tait’s side all three points.

It was a scrappy affair in the first half and, following the recent run of bad weather, the playing surface was testing for the youngsters.

Kouyate broke through 11 minutes before half-time and smashed the ball home with a powerful finish to give Everton the advantage at the break.

Blackburn made it difficult in the second half and threw everything at the Blues to get themselves back into the game, finding a leveller on 50 minutes when Alex Baker was sharp inside the penalty area to nod home from Georgie Gent’s dangerous cross.

The Toffees responded well, though, and started to dominate the game. That was rewarded with 62 minutes on the clock when Sean McAllister slotted the ball through the Rovers defence and midfielder Whitaker made no mistake one on one with the goalkeeper to slot the ball home.

Everton stood firm for the final half hour of the game and their resolute defending was enough to see the game out to move them up to fifth in the Premier League (North) table.

It was the first game in almost a month for the Under-18s following their FA Youth Cup postponement and manager Tait understands the need to remain match fit.

“Ideally, you keep playing and you keep the match fitness up,” he said. “You can keep training but it’s the match fitness and what you learn from the game: the intensity, the high-speed runs and the distance covered. That’s the big one with playing games.”

Everton Under-18s will be back in league action next Saturday at USM Finch Farm against Manchester City (11am kick-off).

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