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Under-23s Win Title After Bowler Winner

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Everton Under-23s are the 2018-19 Premier League 2 champions after Josh Bowler’s superb strike secured a decisive 1-0 win over title rivals Brighton & Hove Albion on a night of high drama at Goodison Park.

Electric winger Bowler placed pinpoint finish beyond the reach of Seagulls stopper Rob Sanchez to put the young Blues in front midway through the first half.

Brighton had a golden chance to force title race into the final round of matches eight minutes from time but Viktor Gyokeres’ penalty went over the bar after the striker slipped as he was about to strike the ball.

The victory puts the young Blues six points ahead at the top of the table with just one match left and seals a second league title in three years for David Unsworth’s  team.

The young Blues raced out of the blocks in front of healthy, enthusiastic crowd at the Grand Old Lady.

With just two minutes on the clock, Nathan Broadhead’s 25-yard daisy-cutter required a fingertip stop from Brighton goalkeeper Rob Sanchez.

The away team were next to threaten and Jordan Davies’ dipping free-kick went fractions over Joao Virginia’s crossbar.

Unsworth’s men steadily began to establish a foothold in the game, probing dangerously in the final third and putting the Brighton defence on the back foot.

The breakthrough came on 22 minutes – and it was moment of real quality.

Bowler collected the ball wide on the right flank, about 35 yards from goal. The forward dashed inside and towards the Brighton penalty box, showcasing his impressive strength to hold off the challenge of Jayson Molumby, before rifling a left-footed shot into the bottom corner from the edge of area.

The young Blues’ lead was well deserved, but the scores would have been level again just three minutes later were it not for a decisive intervention from Fraser Hornby.

A Brighton corner was met by the head of striker Bojan Radjulovic – his effort looked destined for the bottom corner but striker Hornby was there to hack clear on the line.

Everton soon regained their composure and Broadhead flashed an effort just over the bar two minutes before the half-time interval. The Welshman then played creator and his swerving cross was inches too high for Feeney.

Goalscorer Bowler was providing a constant penetrative threat and his devilish centre almost found the onrushing Hornby.

The dangerous Bowler saw another left-footer from the edge of the box go just wide minutes after the break, but it was Scotland Under-21 international Hornby who had the game’s next real chance.

The 19-year-old latched onto Feeney’s clearance and raced in on goal down the left channel, but his shot hit the side-netting.

The away side were in no mood to go down without a fight and defender Leo Ostigard twice headed over from corner deliveries as they searched for an equaliser.

Broadhead’s influence was growing all the time and he fired just off target after a spellbinding dribble that saw him leave two Brighton defenders in his wake.

The skilful winger then had a gilt-edged chance to extend Everton’s advantage. Ryan Astley’s crossfield pass put him through one-on-one with Sanchez – Broadhead attempted to place his shot into the corner but the keeper stood tall and made the stop.

Brighton refused to buckle, though, and after Lewis Gibson brought down Max Sanders in the box eight minutes from time, Gyokeres had a glorious chance to level from the spot.

The striker lost his footing just as he was about to make contact, though, and the young Blues saw out the game to secure title glory.

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