Goalkeeper Nathan Bishop was delighted to play his part in a 2-0 win for Southend United U18s against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday morning.
The second-year shotstopper lined up for the youth team for the second match in succession following eleven appearances on the substitutes’ bench for the senior side this season, and the former Harefield Academy pupil was delighted to register his third clean sheet of the campaign.
“It was a positive result and it was good, coming off The FA Youth Cup, to go into the next game in the league and keep a clean sheet,” said Bishop. “We were coming off a negative result, so to get a positive one straight away was good.”
“Clean sheets are valuable in the sense of how you feel in yourself. It’s like a striker scoring a goal; it’s something positive to take away from the game,” he added after the match at the King’s College Sports Ground in New Malden.
Youth team coach Dave Huzzey made two changes to the starting line-up that had suffered a single-goal defeat to league leaders Milton Keynes Dons in the first round of The FA Youth Cup as Miles Mitchell-Nelson returned after serving a three-match suspension and Jon Benton replaced Dru Yearwood in midfield. He was joined in that area of the pitch by Zak Pianim, who moved out of defence.
Southend made a bright start, earning a couple of early corners, but it was Bishop who was drawn into action first in the eighth minute when the Dons moved quickly down the left-hand side and the gloveman, making his 39th U18s appearance, brilliantly turned a close-range finish around the left-hand post.
Blues enjoyed a decent amount of possession but they were unable to fashion a clear-cut opportunity, even with Sewa Marah having swapped positions with Emile Acquah to begin the game in a more central deployment. In the 25th minute good work by Eren Kinali and Benton led to a fierce strike by Dan Humphreys which was charged down at close-quarters.
Kinali suffered a similar fate when Ide Osimeh’s swinging left-footed cross was cleared out to him on the edge of the penalty area two minutes later, and Bishop again had to be alert seconds afterwards when he read a through-ball to snatch the spheroid off the toes of an onrushing forward.
Neither team could breach their opponents’ defences during the final quarter-of-an-hour of the first half with Humphreys tracking his runner well in the 35th minute to deflect a shot off-target and Mitchell-Nelson then flicking over with a header from Benton’s floated set-piece delivery at the other end. Acquah was denied a chance to convert Marah’s late centre by some smart goalkeeping and the teams went in at 0-0.
It had been a solid first-half performance from Southend, with few alarms at the back, but they attacked in the second period with renewed purpose and Acquah saw an early strike blocked out to Benton 25 yards from goal within three minutes of the restart. The midfielder’s strike was deflected wide amid appeals for handball that the referee waved away.
If there was any resentment amongst the visiting squad, they channelled it in the right way and scored from the resultant corner. Osimeh’s corner was met by a towering Taylor Curran header and, although that attempt was repelled, the loose ball fell to Kinali on the edge of the penalty area and he rifled home into the bottom left-hand corner of the net to spark jubilant celebrations.
Within five minutes Benton, who had hit the crossbar late in that FA Youth Cup tie at Stadium MK, almost doubled the advantage with a searing 25-yard strike after collecting an Acquah pass, but his effort was directed inches over. Then, just before the hour mark, Osmieh’s superb left-wing delivery was millimetres out of the reach of Marah at the far post.
After that salvo, Southend resolved to close out the victory and attempted to control possession. Terrell Egbri, Marley Hutchings and Matt Rush was introduced to the action, but the Dons sensed that they might have an opportunity to get back into the game. Indeed, a misplaced Osimeh header gave them a chance to cross from the right, but the whistle blew for a foul as the ball was bundled into the net.
Blues responded and Acquah saw his shot palmed around the post before a fine Harry Cuthbert delivery was glanced over by Marah. There was another nervous moment as a free-kick led to the ball ricocheting around the Southend penalty area in the 81st minute, but Bishop stood tall to parry out a fierce shot and maintain the lead.
And the Shrimpers made sure of the three points with three minutes remaining when Hutchings converted his first youth team goal for the club. The substitute, a former AFC Wimbledon trainee, forced the ball over the line from close-range as Acquah distracted the goalkeeper when Osimeh sent in a right-wing corner.
Hutchings had to make a good block at the other end to keep out a strong shot, and an acrobatic bicycle kick was also sent inches wide by the hosts during stoppage time, but Blues registered a fifth win from their last six league games to keep Milton Keynes within realistic reach at the top of the table.
Bishop was happy to have helped the team claim a fourth straight away league success and keep himself in contention following Ted Smith’s return from injury: “My performance was positive, and it is something I can take into how the situation is at the club at the moment with Ted just coming back. It’s a positive for myself and I enjoyed it. It’s good to be playing,” he remarked.
“The diversity is different playing for the youth team with the change of all the players and the surroundings, but it’s a case of dealing with what you’ve got and enjoying what you’ve got whilst it’s there. It’s nice and positive to be back around these boys and it’s a good feeling to get positive vibes off them,” he added.
Southend United U18s: Nathan Bishop, Dan Humphreys, Ide Osimeh, Zak Pianim, Taylor Curran (Marley Hutchings, 70), Miles Mitchell-Nelson, Eren Kinali (Terrell Egbri, 66), Harry Cuthbert (O’Shane Stewart, 79), Sewa Marah, Jon Benton (Matt Rush, 74), Emile Acquah. Substitute not used: Sam Knock.
Goals: Kinali (49), Hutchings (87).
Cautioned: Curran (51, foul tackle), Pianim (67, foul tackle), Bishop (85, delaying the restart of play).