Southend United’s under 18’s booked their place in the BC Worldwide Challenge Final with a 2-1 win against Colchester United.
Ricky Duncan’s side have the opportunity to defend their crown against Norwich City thanks to stunning strikes from Mitchell Pinnock and Shamir Mullings.
Despite their success, Head of Youth Ricky Duncan admitted that there was still room for improvement ahead of the final against the Canaries.
“I thought we played poorly in the first half, as poorly as we have at any stage in pre-season so far,” Duncan told the official website.
“I think the lads had one eye on playing against Norwich and did not take into account the fact that had to beat Colchester first to earn that.”
Blues took the lead after 11 minutes through Mitchell Pinnock who arrowed his shot it into the bottom right-hand corner of Colchester goalkeeper Miles Palmer’s goal.
Southend failed to add to their advantage in the 24th minute when Marlon Agyakwa curled a shot into Palmer’s gloves, and then when Njie put Payne clear of the defence seconds later Palmer was equal to the forward.
Colchester responded by upping the ante, and they deservedly equalised three minutes before the break when Sam Szmodics, swept the ball into the net at the second attempt.
Impressive first-year scholar Michael Ademuliyi could have opened his account in the 41st minute, but he failed to bring down Robert Hyams’ left-wing cross before 7 minutes later Palmer was equal to Pinnock’s 25-yard effort.
However, Southend managed to find a way through in the 52nd minute when Shamir Mullings drilled 22 yards effort into the bottom corner to book the Blues place in Sunday’s 3pm final at Boots and Laces.
Southend United: Smith, Jeffery, Hyams, Edwards, Tatham, Banton, Agyakwa (Ademuliyi 37), Coker (Barlow 31), Njie (Mullings 31), Payne (Bridge 44), Pinnock (Twum 56).
Subs not used: Creary, Williams, King, Snook, Farrell, Apenteng.
Colchester United: Palmer, Clarke (Rogers 31), O’Donoghue (Brown 31), Mafuta (Lapslie 47), Kent, Roast, Curtis, Lapslie (Blanche 31), Bonne (Nwachuku 39), Szmodics, Simmons.