Southend United continued their pre-season preparations on Saturday afternoon as Kevin Maher’s youthful side were held to a 2-2 draw over Kettering Town at Latimer Park.
It was the Poppies who took the lead early on through forward Sam Bennett, as he drove his effort in from distance, before Trialist B levelled the score for Southend, as both sides ended the first half level.
Blues came out fighting and took the lead early in the second half as Trialist A put the Essex side ahead, but were pegged backed on the hour, when substitute Neo Richardson-Noel slotted past Collin Andeng Ndi.
After a quiet opening ten minutes, the first chance of the game fell to Blues through Callum Powell, who was captaining the side on his return to Kettering.
Powell picked up the ball after a long forward pass from youngster Oli Coker before dancing his way past several defenders, but the winger saw his effort blocked.
Moments after, it was Kettering who took the lead through Bennett in the 15th minute, with the forward driving his effort from long range past Andeng Ndi to give the National League North side the lead.
But Maher’s young side hit back five minutes later, showing the levels of resilience that the coaching department had been working hard to instil, when Jack Wood picked out Trialist B who slotted home the equaliser from close range.
In the 29th minute, Blues came close to taking the lead but were denied thanks to a fine save from Cameron Gregory, who pushed Powell’s effort behind at the near post.
Both sides struggled to grow into the game as a combination of scorching weather and a difficult pitch played their part in hampering Blues’ efforts early on.
It was the Blues’ professionalism which stood out in the first half, as Oli Coker continued his impressive form to slot through Simeon Akinola, but the former Barnet man couldn’t convert past Gregory.
That would be the last action that Akinola would see for the day, as just moments before half time, play was halted whilst the striker was helped off the pitch after aggravating his left knee in an attempt at goal.
Blues started the second half superbly and took the lead through Trialist A after the striker did well to beat his man before slotting past Gregory’s left hand side.
That lead didn’t last for long tough as the hosts equalised on the hour mark through substitute Richardson-Noel.
The midfielder found himself unmarked in Blues’ box and made no mistake as he slotted past Andeng Ndi first time.
Blues kept up their pressure though and charged forward through Trialist C who played in Arrowsmith, but the young fullback was hacked down by Ben Sault, who received a yellow card for his troubles.
As the sun continued to shine in Northamptonshire, there was little else to separate the two sides on the bobbly surface as Maher’s young Shrimpers were forced to settle for a draw and continue their unbeaten pre-season.
Up next for Blues is a trip to the JobServe Community Stadium on Tuesday evening where they face local rivals Colchester United as they step up their preparations for the season ahead.
Blues XI: Andeng Ndi, Reeve, David, Arrowsmith, Crowhurst, Benton, Coker, Powell © (Trialist C 63’), Wood, Akinola (Trialist A 44’), Trialist B.
Subs: Ralph, Hobson, Taylor, Clifford, Bridge.
Kettering: Bennett 15’, Richardson-Noel 60’
Blues: Trialist B 20’, Trialist A 49’
Kettering: Sault 68’
Blues: Reeve 69’