KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 31, 2019: Liverpool's Layton Stewart during the Under-18 FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United at the Liverpool Academy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Layton Stewart fires fresh faced Liverpool U18s to first win of new year

A Layton Stewart double paved the way for Liverpool U18s to open their 2020 account with all three points over Blackburn Rovers.

Liverpool U18s 3-0 Blackburn Rovers U18s

U18 Premier League, Kirkby
January 4, 2020

Goals: Stewart 54′, pen 73′, O’Rourke 78′

The turn of the new year paved the way for a return to league action for Barry Lewtas‘ side, where pegging back the deficit from leaders Man City was high on the agenda to start off the second half of the season.

The young Reds, however, were made younger against 10th placed Blackburn, with personnel distributed across the ranks with the U23s playing on Sunday in addition to a host of academy players set to feature in the first team squad in the FA Cup clash against Everton.

It presented an opportunity for Luca Stephenson to make his debut for the U18s, with the 16-year-old midfielder later joined by fellow debutant Abel Rodriques late in the piece.

With a plethora of new faces playing as a unit for the first time, it came as little surprise to see the U18s require time to gel and find their groove.

Lewtas’ side, however, were dominant on and off the ball throughout, with Layton Stewart proving to be the greatest threat in attack.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 5, 2019: Liverpool's substitute Tyler Morton celebrates scoring the sixth goal during the Under-18 FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC at Finch Farm. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He forced Blackburn’s ‘keeper into a number of brilliant saves, with a curled effort towards the top corner the closest the Reds came to breaking the deadlock before the break, with Tyler Morton and skipper Fidel O’Rourke both asking questions of Jordan Eastham from close range.

At the back, Remi Savage thwarted a number of promising Blackburn attacks with timely blocks while Conor Bradley was a livewire at right-back to ensure there was similarly no way through for the visitors.

After the break, both sides emerged with a clear intent to increase the tempo and ask more questions of those in between the sticks.

And while O’Rourke had the first opportunity for the Reds minutes after the restart only to fire his effort wide of the upright from close range, a blistering counter-attack, not too dissimilar from that seen from the senior side, saw the U18s take the lead.

Harvey Davies had pulled off a number of brilliant saves in quick succession as the Reds struggled to clear, only for the resulting corner to see Stewart become the benefactor after Blackburn’s ‘keeper and centre-back collided to see the striker roll the ball into an empty net.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 5, 2019: Liverpool's captain Fidel O'Rourke (R) celebrates scoring the first goal with team-mate Layton Stewart during the Under-18 FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC at Finch Farm. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With fellow stopper Jakub Ojrzynski having made his return to training after injury, Davies did his chances of keeping his place in the side no harm at Kirkby.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the field Stewart, Morton and O’Rourke turned on the style to hit Blackburn for two – with the former finding the goal from the spot after Morton had been impeded after a sumptuous turn in the box.

The goalscorer then turned provider for his strike partner, after a brilliant through ball from Morton found the onrushing Stewart who unselfishly fed the ball across the box for O’Rourke to tap in the third of what was a comfortable afternoon for Lewtas’ side.

TIA Man of the Match: Layton Stewart

Liverpool U18s: Davies; Bradley, Quansah, Savage, Beck; Balagizi, Stephenson, Morton, Woltman (Wilson 84′); O’Rouke (Rodriques 90′), Stewart

Subs not used: Hewitson, Chambers, Mabaya

Next Match: Stoke City (A) – U18 Premier League – Saturday, November 11, 11am (GMT)