Seedy Njie's goal earns youngsters a share of the spoils
Southend United’s Youth Alliance League fixture with AFC Bournemouth beat the weekend freeze, but Blues were unable to overcome their opponents as Brandon Goodship cancelled out Seedy Njie’s early goal in a 1-1 draw.
Shrimpers’ Head of Youth Ricky Duncan felt that the result was a fair reflection of the match at Christchurch FC’s Hurn Bridge Sports Ground: “We probably had the better of the chances in the first half and then they enjoyed more opportunities in the second,” he opined after a fixture that also saw Goodship miss a penalty.
“The lads are disappointed because they feel that the goal was avoidable. It was a long ball that’s caught us out, and our defence has been very good at cutting those out in recent weeks. I can only remember each goalkeeper making one real save apiece, so I don’t think you can argue with the scoreline,” he added.
Southend were a little fortunate when edging ahead in just the seventh minute of the match. Bournemouth had made a brighter start, but a momentary lapse by Jake McCarthy allowed Njie to steal in and advance on the goalkeeper before succinctly chipping the ball over his opponent and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Five minutes later, Blues were nearly 2-0 up after an excellent exhibition of wing-play by Mitchell Pinnock. The left-footed flanker hoisted the ball over a full-back on the touchline before bringing it under control and sending his centre against the crossbar with the ‘keeper beaten.
“I thought that if we had managed to get a second goal at that stage, then Bournemouth would’ve found it difficult to get back at us,” said Duncan, who side were far from their fluent best but still had enough awareness to prevent custodian Ted Smith from being tested during the first half.
Lewis Blackmore got in behind Harry Jeffery in the 17th minute, but the Blues right-back recovered to make an important block after Aaron Tatham mis-timed his challenge. Eight minutes later a forward nodded wide under pressure from Smith as he attempted to meet Sam Matthews’ corner.
Southend’s threat was sporadic, although birthday boy Njie enjoyed two chances to add to his personal tally in the 32nd minute. Both were set up by Agyakwa who first threaded the ball into the forward’s path, with Njie eventually running out of pitch having beaten two defenders, and then directed a corner towards his team-mate at the near post, only for the headed connection to send it wide.
Five minutes later, a precise Jeffery pass picked out Jack Bridge who turned away from a defender but could only arrow his shot into the ‘keeper’s gloves. A Bournemouth striker fired into the side-netting from a good Blackmore reverse pass as the half drew to an end, with the final action of the opening period seeing Smith catch Goodship's header comfortably before the same player curled wide from 25 yards out.
Blues retained the ball much more confidently at the start of the second half, but the momentum switched in the 64th minute when Kane Farrell was harshly adjudged to have fouled a midfielder in the penalty area when only the tiniest contact was evident. The contentious awarding of the spot-kick must have weighed heavily on Goodship’s mind as he drilled the twelve-yarder past the right-hand post.
Seconds later Goodship set up a substitute for a curling shot sent inches over the crossbar and, in the 70th minute, Smith made a superb stop to deny a midfielder by flinging himself to his right to push out a well-struck effort from 12 yards out.
Unfortunately, with just seven minutes remaining, Bournemouth equalised. Goodship controlled a long ball and shielded it from Tatham before spotting Smith slip as he approached to narrow the angle. The front man took his opportunity to guide the ball over the shotstopper and make it 1-1. Despite the introduction of trialist Alex Akrofi and forward Jason Williams, Southend ran out of time to respond.
“Overall, our passing wasn’t as crisp as it has been, and we weren’t able to move the ball around as much as we would’ve liked,” Duncan stated. “I think the long journey took its toll - some of the lads had to get up at 5.30am or 6.00am to get here - and that probably didn’t help.”
Southend United: Ted Smith, Harry Jeffery, Kane Farrell, Charlie Barlow (Daniel King, 66), Josh Banton, Aaron Tatham, Marlon Agyakwa (Jason Williams, 90), Jack Bridge, Seedy Njie, Jack Payne, Mitchell Pinnock (Alex Akrofi, 87). Substitute not used: Dan Snook.
Goal: Njie (7).