Visiting forward Shaquille McDonald scored a superb hat-trick as Peterborough United inflicted a 3-0 defeat on Southend United U18s in their final home match of the 2012/13 campaign.
McDonald opened his account thirteen minutes into the contest and added an important second on the stroke of half-time before completing his treble in stoppage time at the end of the game, with Head of Youth Ricky Duncan remarking: “That was probably the best exhibition of forward play we’ve come up against this season.”
“The lad’s movement and positional play was superb, and he took his goals very well. But the positive for us is that we ended the game with two schoolboy centre-halves in Alex Reed and Daniel Matsuzaka, and they will have learnt so much from today’s game,” he prophesised.
With Mitchell Pinnock and Seedy Njie both included in Phil Brown’s first-team squad for the League Two fixture against Bristol Rovers – they would later be joined on the substitutes’ bench by goalkeeper Ted Smith – Duncan made a series of changes to the team that had recorded an impressive 1-1 draw at Watford as Harry Jeffery, Brandon Scott, Jason Williams and Jack Bridge all made the starting eleven.
With Brown himself watching on from the sidelines, Southend started nervously and McDonald almost worked his way into the penalty area during the opening five minutes after a persistent run, but his effort was charged down. However, he did score with his next opportunity, nodding in Matthew Carter’s cross at the back post despite Smith getting a palm to the ball.
Peterborough had been dominant in the early stages, but Blues slowly edged their way back into the game and Bridge combined with Kane Farrell to set up Scott on the right-hand edge of the penalty area.
The winger, one of eight to be offered a scholarship for next season, drew a good stop from Alex Lynch at his near post. Williams was next to take aim, driving a 20-yard shot narrowly wide of the right-hand upright, but Posh made a concerted effort during the last ten minutes of the first half to move further ahead. First to try his luck was McDonald, who was slipped through by Jevani Brown only for Smith to effect an excellent stop with his legs.
Jaanaj Gordon should have doubled the visitors’ advantage in the 40th minute when he was afforded a free header from inside the six-yard box to meet Regan Carthey’s centre, but he headed over with the goal at his mercy.
McDonald was not so profligate four minutes later when Tom Conlon cut the ball back from the left-hand bye-line into the forward’s path. He skilfully turned the ball inside the right-hand upright from six yards out to deliver a telling blow to Southend’s prospects.
“We felt that we gave Peterborough too much space in the first half, and we allowed their wingers to get plenty of dangerous crosses into the penalty area. In the second half, we changed the formation to stop this and we were much better. I believe we deserved a goalless second period,” said Duncan.
Farrell signalled Southend’s improved intent four minutes after the break when his 25-yard free-kick was floated into Lynch’s gloves, and he was incredibly unfortunate with his next opportunity just before the hour mark.
The Peterborough defence allowed the ball to bounce out to the left-footer, and he sweetly struck the ball against the top of the crossbar with Lynch beaten. Shortly afterwards, Duncan implored Williams to run with the ball and he obeyed his instructions before firing narrowly wide of the left-hand upright.
Posh retained a threat, and Jermaine Anderson spread play to McDonald, who curled wide before setting up Brown midway through the half. He swept his shot wide and later saw another effort blocked by a sliding Robert Hyams, whilst Carthey was unable to control a first-time volley when he connected with a cross-field pass by Daniel Lawlor. Southend could have set up a grandstand finish late on when Williams flicked on Bridge’s cross, but Matsuzaka couldn’t turn the ball in during a goalmouth scramble and 15-year-old Norman Wabo was unable to head Farrell’s left-wing cross home a few moments later.
Instead, Peterborough added some gloss to the scoreline during injury time. McDonald should have completed his hat-trick in the first of three added minutes, but he smashed over from Brown’s through-ball before making amends by superbly controlling Lawlor’s raking pass with his chest and slotting beneath Smith.
“I’m content with today’s performance. We had a lot of young lads out there; Dan and Alex at the back, Brandon out wide and Macauley Keaton who came on and did well. They’re all Under-16s and Norman up front is still an Under-15, so he’s giving away three-and-a-half years to some of those players. I thought he really put himself about well,” concluded Duncan.
Blues complete their season on Wednesday when they travel to Luton Town.
Southend United: Ted Smith, Harry Jeffery (Alex Reed, 65), Robert Hyams, Fope Coker (Norman Wabo, 46), Aaron Tatham, Daniel Matsuzaka, Brandon Scott (Macauley Keaton, 78), Jack Edwards, Jason Williams, Jack Bridge, Kane Farrell. Substitutes not used: Charlie Barlow, Daniel King.