Southend United Under 18s’ pre-season preparations concluded with a 2-0 defeat at Ryman League Premier side Concord Rangers on Saturday.
Goals in either half from Danny Spendlove and Chris Bourne were enough to secure victory for the Beachboys, but Blues’ Head of Youth Ricky Duncan was keen to point towards his side’s improvement in the second period.
“We were poor in the first half, but we were much better after the break, and I was happy with how we stepped up,” said Duncan.
“It was good for the lads to see what it’s like playing in men’s football, and the work that they have to do to be ready to play at senior level.”
Southend began strongly, creating the first opportunity in the fifth minute, when Seedy Njie shot across the face of goal before Concord responded through Jason Hallett who fired into the side netting after Ted Smith parried Reece Harris eighth minute shot.
Robert Hyms then cleared the ball off the line from Rangers’ Tony Stokes before the home side finally took the lead in the 18th minute through Spendlove after he evaded the Blues defence and keeper Smith to tap into an empty net.
Southend responded with a Dan Snook volley from Marlon Agyakwa’s corner midway through the first half before Steve King nodded Spendlove’s corner wide moments later.
And on the stroke of half-time Concord Rangers could have doubled their advantage after Stokes’ strike beat Smith but Snook was covering to header off the line.
Mitchell Pinnock got the second half underway with a shot that warmed Michael Jordan’s gloves in the home sides goal before Blues tested the custodian again by first forcing a corner from Agyakwa’s left-wing cross before the ensuing flag-kick was also dropped at the feet of Aaron Tatham.
Smith then reacted brilliantly in the 69th minute to deny Spendlove at the other end, turning the ball over the bar, before substitute Jack Bridge sent a 25-yard effort inches wide of the post.
Fope Coker then sent another long-range effort in on goal before two minutes from time Concord sealed victory as they added a second.
Jacob Cleaver’s cross to the back post that allowed Bourne the opportunity to volley into the bottom right-hand corner.
Southend United U18s: Ted Smith, Harry Jeffrey (Dan King 78), Robert Hyams (Kane Farrell 71), Jack Edwards, Aaron Tatham, Daniel Snook (Charlie Barlow 46), Marlon Agyakwa (Michael Ademiluyi 61), Fope Coker (Jack Bridge 38 [Kojo 78]), Seedy Njie (Jason Williams 71), Jack Payne (Coker 61), Mitchell Pinnock (Kamal Creary 65).
Sub not used: Ben Crickmay