Rafael Garcia starred as Everton Under-18s beat Middlesbrough 2-1 in the U18 Premier League (North) at USM Finch Farm on Saturday.

The promising young forward struck his first league goal in almost two years midway through the first half, having had a lengthy lay off with an injury.

Charlie Whitaker added a second soon after, which would prove to be the decisive goal despite the visitors halving the deficit 10 minutes from time through Callum Kavanagh.

The victory means that Paul Tait’s side leapfrog today’s opponents into fifth place – Now just one point behind fourth-placed Wolves.

Middlesbrough inflicted the early pressure in the game and the Toffees were struggling to play against the wind in the blustery conditions.

Afonso Lindo should have given the visitors an early advantage, but he nodded wide from point-blank range after drifting in unmarked at the far post.

Skipper Jack Stott fired a dipping half volley wide from range and George Waits looked certain to put his side ahead but for a superb sliding block from defender Harry Hagan.

The visitors continued to pressurise Jak Stewart’s goal. Joe Ridley dragging an effort agonisingly wide of the far post this time.

But it was the young Blues who struck first on 26 minutes. Middlesbrough failed to clear their lines from an Everton corner and Garcia ghosted in to stab the ball home from three yards.

Garcia proved instrumental once again just minutes later, setting up Whitaker for a second Toffees goal. The playmaker confidently drilled a well-placed finish into the bottom corner from eighteen yards.

Whitaker nearly added a third just before the interval, but his glancing header flashed wide of the far post.

Henry Popple pulled off a wonderful flying save midway inside the second half to deny Toffees skipper Sean McAllister adding his name to the scoresheet.

Boro started to impose themselves on the game in the late stages and they were rewarded when Kavanagh finished from close range after waltzing through the Everton defence.

Kavanagh threatened to equalise in the dying embers of the game, but Hagan was there again to block the strike with a last-ditch tackle.

Everton Under-18s are back in action on Wednesday night against Wigan Athletic in the FA Youth Cup (7pm).

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