Liverpool could include Wonderkid in Brentford squad as midfielder faces career crossroads

Liverpool Under-23s were held to a 1-1 draw against Everton in the Merseyside mini derby on Saturday.

After Jack Bearne put Barry Lewtas’ side ahead in the second half, they were overtaken by Tom Cannon’s equaliser.

The ECHO’S Paul Gorst provides analysis of the Premier League game 2 at Kirkby Academy.

Durable Clarkson Class

It wasn’t where Leighton Clarkson thought he’d end up less than five months after his dream move.

The childhood Blackburn Rovers fan will no doubt feel a tinge of disappointment that his short-term loan move to the Championship side didn’t yield better results from a personal perspective.

A tactical adjustment to a back three has coincided with nine wins from 15 games for Tony Mowbray’s side and it culminated in the decision to send Clarkson back to Liverpool this month.

He looked like he never left here, despite his relative inactivity in Lancashire.

In his first appearance since returning to his parent club, Clarkson was embroiled in everything Liverpool did in a mini Merseyside derby that could be described as a war of attrition.

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Content to sit deep to allow the more powerful pair of Elijah Dixon-Bonner and James Balagizi to advance into midfield three, Clarkson dictated play deep all day.

Sometimes winning the ball from Marcelo Pitaluga’s goal kicks inside the Reds’ own penalty area, Clarkson was clearly instructed to gain as much possession as possible to use the full range of his passing.

At times he was guilty of forcing the issue too far, but he kept Liverpool in the middle of the park as they enjoyed territorial dominance, particularly in the first half.

“I thought Leighton was in control and every attack we had had an assist from Leighton Clarkson,” Lewtas told ECHO after the game.

“If I’m being honest, he shows incredible bravery in the way he receives the ball behind midfield and in defence.

“He’s creative but obviously he hasn’t played as much lately at Blackburn and when he has he’s played a line higher so I think it’s really good for him to come back here, to get the ball back and regain his rhythm and his confidence.”

Anfield sources believe Clarkson will be allowed to find a new club to join on loan this season as he looks to return to senior football soon, but it’s been a good afternoon in his attempts to find spring in his Steps.

Dixon-Bonner at a crossroads

“Dreams really do come true,” Elijah Dixon-Bonner tweeted after his Liverpool debut last week.

It was probably a day the midfielder thought would not come as the search for a new club over the summer months continued.

A trial with Portsmouth did not result in a permanent move to the south coast and despite being given the green light to find a job elsewhere, Dixon-Bonner has had to wait longer in the U23 ranks this term.

To his credit, he stuck to the task, attracting enough attention from those who matter for his inclusion in the FA Cup squad that beat Shrewsbury 4-1 last week.

The 21-year-old, now in his sixth year in the Academy ranks, is still at the same crossroads he was at over the summer, but he continues to work hard and wait for what comes next.

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It was a diligent performance in midfield three that was peppered with occasional flashes of quality, particularly when moving to the left flank to complete the attack.

“He’s back and he’s in good spirits,” Lewtas said. “It was a real confidence booster for him to play for the first team.

“Obviously today was a similar game for him to Shrewsbury where we’re trying to break the block.

“We sometimes tried to overload the sides with our speed up there and Elijah gives it to us.

“I know with the first team game he also moved down the flanks. So I thought he was a threat to us, we just didn’t have the key to unlock him. sometimes.”

Gordon intrigues as Brentford approaches

One player who stood out for his absence on Saturday afternoon was Kaide Gordon.

His absence on the pitch itself, at least.

Fresh off his FA Cup goal for the first team in last week’s win over Shrewsbury – a strike that saw him become the second-youngest goalscorer in Anfield’s history – Gordon was back there where it all started for him as a Liverpool player 12 months ago.

Lewtas, however, was unable to bring the talented teenager to his front line, with Gordon sitting this one out.

There is no indication that his absence from the squad was due to any injury, which suggests a greater involvement at first-team level for Brentford’s visit to the Premier League on Sunday.

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At a time when Jurgen Klopp’s attacking options are stretched by Divock Origi’s injury and Sadio Mane, Naby Keita and Mohamed Salah’s participation in the Africa Cup of Nations, a door has potentially opened up for the very talented Gordon.

“Right now we have a really healthy situation,” Lewtas said of Gordon’s potential inclusion in the Reds’ senior squad.

“Kaide is training a lot more with the first team at the moment and he’s in a good space.

“He was watching the 18 today and then a bit of our game, so he’s a good lad and we’ve got a lot of that right now.”

Lewtas has missed Gordon’s edge here at times after watching him terrorize Everton in August in a convincing win at Southport.

“Kaide was electric in this game,” added Lewtas. “But if someone’s not there, it’s someone else’s opportunity and I think Jack did very well.”

Gordon won’t expect to start or even have many chances on the substitutes’ bench if called up on Sunday, but just getting more and more familiar with how things work under Klopp will be great for its development.

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