Norwich City’s senior stars Vadis Ofoe and Elliott Bennett play 90 minutes in 1-1 development draw against Everton’s U21s
- Credit: Archant
Norwich City's development squad were denied top spot in the elite tier of academy football after being hit by a late sucker punch in Monday's 1-1 Premier League development draw at Carrow Road.
Paul Wilkinson's line up was bolstered by a clutch of senior men with Elliott Bennett and Vadis Ofoe both playing 90 minutes and centre-back Ryan Bennett earning a 67-minute run out.
City's experience saw them largely control proceedings – Elliott Bennett smashing a long range second half shot against a post - but with only Carlton Morris' first-half effort to show for their dominance they were punished by the unmarked Tyias Browning's 78th minute close range header.
Norwich, however, remained in the top three ahead of their final two development league games against Chelsea and Liverpool's under-21s although Wilkinson was unhappy with the late lapse.
'It is frustrating for us, and its not too many times we have said that about the boys,' he said. 'We created numerous opportunities and we have not been ruthless enough to finish them and then we have switched off at the back from a corner and been severely punished. It is a big learning curve for them because they were in control of the game and it is that split second which can cost you. They have been taught a harsh lesson.
'To be fair, I think it was Carlton marking the boy and he has held his hands up but he has to learn quickly. If you are going back into your own box you are there to do a job. But we've had a good week and that is one loss out of 13 at this level and I can't ask any more. They have been terrific.'
Wilkinson was pleased with the impact of City's senior men.
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'I have never had any problems all year when the first team boys come in,' he said. 'They know what I am about and what we expect. We want to be good for them as well as them for us and we have had that blend. We just have two good games now to finish off and they can play without the pressure of looking over their shoulder because the league has been so tight but that should just be about enough to make sure we can look upwards.'
City's line up also included Jamar Loza and Conor McGrandles, along with Manchester City trialist Emanuel Vasi at left-back. Elliott Bennett turned on the after burners in the fourth minute to power to the byline before delivering a cross Ryan Ledson headed behind.
Morris drilled Norwich in front in the ninth minute with a low finish that appeared to wrong-foot Toffees' stopper Russell Griffiths with the aid of a slight deflection against Brendan Galloway.
David Helen spurned a chance to draw Everton level in the 16th minute when he span in behind Ofoe to beat the offside trap but dragged an angled strike wide of Remi Matthews' far post.
Elliott Bennett demanded the ball from Loza with the Canaries trying to pass their way through the blue shirts but Loza's intended cross for Morris was cut out by Antonee Robinson.
The City wide player seemed determined to get goal side of Robinson in the early sparring with Ofoe's intended clip pass over the top getting the thumbs up, although the Toffees' full-back was able to cut out the danger.
Morris brushed the side netting on his left foot after Loza had probed down the opposite flank as the experienced operators in the home ranks continued to feature prominently.
Griffiths' excellent parry denied Loza on the half-hour mark after the striker escaped detection to guide a right-footed shot towards the bottom corner before the Everton number one pushed it behind.
Liam Walsh's rising 20-yard free kick failed to trouble Matthews at the opposite end in a rare attacking foray from the visitors.
Ofoe carved out a chance for the unmarked Morris in the 41st minute but the striker's wayward header lacked the precision of his earlier goal.
Elliott Bennett was denied by a last-ditch block from Galloway as City tried to conjure a second prior to the interval.
A posse of Everton defenders on the goalline thwarted Morris who looked set to bundle home Loza's near post flick-on from the resulting corner.
Ofoe and Elliott Bennett combined smoothly minutes after the restart but Morris miscued his attempted volley.
Loza drew a stop from Griffiths after a slaloming run took him clear in the 55th minute with the pattern largely unaltered from the opening period.
Elliott Bennett's 20-yard curler smacked the inside of Griffiths' far post but bounced back into play on the hour mark.
Toffees' captain Jonjoe Kenny poked a half-volley wide from a sporadic incursion from the visitors. Ryan Bennett was the first of the big hitters to depart in the 67th minute to be replaced by Michee Efete.
Efete was straight into the action with a timely clearance after Elliott Bennett was over-powered in central midfield to spring an Everton counter.
Efete's timing had to be perfect again in the 77th minute to halt another Toffees' foray a yard inside his own penalty area after City coughed up possession in midfield.
Norwich failed to heed the growing warning signs when the unmarked Browning crashed home a close range header from Walsh's corner a minute later. Galloway hauled down Reece Hall-Johnson in the opening minute of stoppage time but Cameron Norman's 18 yard free kick smashed into the Everton wall.
• Norwich City U21s: Matthews, Hall-Johnson, McFadden, R Bennett (Efete 67), Vasi, Grant (Norman 81), Odjidja-Ofoe, McGrandles, E Bennett, Loza, Morris (Kelly 79). Subs (not used): Ramsay, Beauchamp.
• Goal: Morris (9)
• Booking: Hall-Johnson (foul on Henen, 83)
• Everton U21s: Griffiths, Kenny, Robinson, Ledson (Dyson 45), Browning, Galloway, Dowell (Charsley 60), Walsh, Henen, Davies, Connolly. Subs (not used): Hunt, Langton, Byrne.
• Goal: Browning (78)
• Bookings: Davies (foul on Ofoe, 84); Galloway (foul on Hall-Johnson, 90)
• Added on time: 1 minute / 3 minutes
• Referee: E Eiriksson
• Attendance: 1,490