Southend United U21s continued their pre-season preparations with a 2-0 victory over Isthmian League Premier Division outfit Lowestoft Town at Crown Meadow on Wednesday evening
Kevin Maher’s side emerged comfortable winners from the clash, with former Trawlerboys loanee Nico Cotton opening the scoring in the 12th minute and midfielder Michael Klass doubling the advantage shortly after the mid-point of the first half. Blues had further opportunities to score, but Maher will also have been pleased to see his team register a clean sheet.
Blues, who were captained by former youth team skipper Sonny Coutts, made a quick start to the encounter, and Klass served notice of his intentions when he cut inside from the left flank to fire narrowly over in the third minute. A couple of moments later, Southend’s trialist forward latched onto a long Nathan Bishop clearance, only to shoot straight at Ben Dudzinski in the Lowestoft goal.
The visitors continued to control the early stages of the encounter, and they took the lead through a familiar figure to the Crown Meadow faithful. Cotton, who scored four goals in 15 games for the Suffolk side during a loan spell last season, was on hand to tap into the net from close range when Dudzinski spilled the trialist’s right-wing centre into his path.
It was a second goal in as many nights for winger Cotton, who had also netted at Bishop’s Stortford, but Blues were not content to relax. The trialist, who showed a good turn of pace, smashed over from Renei Batlokwa’s cut-back after a quarter-of-an-hour, and in the 19th minute Klass exhibited excellent technique to stroke a 20-yard effort against the crossbar with Dudzinski groping a thin air.
In between, Bishop easily claimed Shaun Bammant’s header as Lowestoft briefly sought an equaliser, but their task was made all the more difficult on 24 minutes when Klass made it 2-0. Batlokwa had just seen an effort deflected wide when the former QPR youngster was picked out by a chipped Coutts pass and he exquisitely lobbed the ball over the stranded Dudzinski from 25 yards out to double the advantage.
Harry Phillips then warmed Dudzinski’s hands with a rasping long-range effort, and the over-worked shotstopper produced heroics in the 41st minute when he tipped over the playmaker’s 25-yard attempt. When Lowestoft did attack, Coutts watched Jake Reed closely before stepping in to tackle three minutes before the break.
Klass, in particular, had been impressive during the first half, and Maher resisted the urge to make wholesale changes to the team. Bishop was replaced with a trialist goalkeeper, but Southend started on the front foot and Phillips found Klass with a quickly-taken free-kick, only for the midfielder to steer his shot at Dudzinski.
Bammant angled a header narrowly wide of the far post from a left-wing cross shortly afterwards, but it was Phillips who came to the fore in the second period, and he linked up with Tom Clifford on the left before striking a dipping, swirling traffic inches over in the 54th minute. Ten minutes later he combined with Klass to set up full-back Elvis Bwomono, but his effort lacked the power to test Dudzinski.
Norman Wabo replaced the trialist forward on 69 minutes, and Lowestoft’s replacement goalkeeper had to be alert to save a Phillips free-kick three minutes later, with Cotton nodding the follow-up over. However, the match concluded with Southend recording a comfortable victory after Wabo had fired wide from long-range. Next Wednesday the team travel to Thurrock as they continue their pre-season campaign.
Southend United U21s: Nathan Bishop (Trialist, 46), Elvis Bwomono, Joe Bedford, Sonny Coutts, Nico Cotton (Alex Clark, 76), Renei Batlokwa, Trialist (Norman Wabo, 69), Harry Phillips, Harry Kyprianou, Tom Clifford, Michael Klass (Trialist, 85).