Ricky Duncan's side earn 2-1 win against Millwall at Boots & Laces
Southend United Under-18s claimed a notable scalp in their penultimate pre-season friendly of 2013/14 by defeating Category Two Academy Millwall 2-1 at Boots & Laces.
“We went about nine matches in a row without beating Millwall when I first arrived here, so to now get the better of them in the last four or five matches is very sweet,” declared Blues’ Head of Youth Ricky Duncan. “It’s particularly pleasing because they are a very good side; they gave us a tough test today and I’m very happy with the result.”
Southend were stepping up their preparations for the new campaign, which begins this Saturday when Stevenage are the visitors to Boots & Laces. Four players completed the entire ninety minutes and all of the starting eleven - which was missing playmakers Jack Bridge and Freddie Gard - featured for at least 56 minutes. However, it was the introduction of midfielder Harry Norman eleven minutes after half-time that Duncan believed had a major influence on the result.
The first-year scholar, who has impressed equally at right-back or in midfield, was reserved for special praise from his boss: “I brought Harry on early in the second half, and I thought he changed the course of the game. He settled us down in midfield and began to pick players out in behind, and that allowed us to get into the match,” said Duncan.
Millwall were able to control large periods of a first half played under a powerful sun in south-east Essex. Ted Smith was brought into the action with a smart save inside two minutes, but Blues did well to contain the threat and ask questions of their opponents when the opportunity arose. A Jason Williams cross was nodded narrowly over by a visiting defender in the tenth minute and, in the 19th, a short Nico Cotton corner was worked back to Charlie Barlow, who drilled a shot into the goalkeeper’s gloves from the edge of the penalty area.
The away side used their possession to good effect two minutes later, and were unfortunate not to take the lead when a forward got across his marker to reach an inswinging cross at the near post, only to direct his shot against the inside of the left-hand post. The ball bounced along the goal-line before Kane Farrell hacked it to safety.
Having narrowly escaped on that occasion, Blues were unable to maintain parity until half-time when Millwall edged ahead five minutes before the break. An incisive pass was taken in his stride by a Lions forward, who coolly coaxed the ball over Smith to give his team the lead. Despite that, Southend almost bounced back seconds later when good work from Macauley Keaton and Williams ended with Daniel King firing wide from 15 yards out.
“Millwall were on top in the first half, but I was happy with the way that we kept our shape and didn’t crumble after going a goal behind. We gave the lads the target to keep hold of the ball after regaining possession instead of handing it back to Millwall, and I felt we implemented that well,” reported Duncan.
Within four minutes of the restart, Cotton had chipped the ball into the penalty area dangerously from the left flank, with a Millwall defender effecting a diving header to stop Williams from connecting. In the 63rd minute, Cotton’s inswinging corner to the back post was met by Jason Williams, and he powered in a header from close range to equalise.
Within two minutes, Blues were in front. Farrell is not often afforded the opportunity to line up a free-kick 25 yards out but, with a number of other set-piece specialists off the pitch by this time, the left-footed full-back was able to arc the dead ball beautifully over the defensive wall and into the top right-hand corner to make it 2-1.
Millwall, who had been beaten by Blues in an end-of-season friendly last term, were intent on fighting back, and they twice missed the target with headed efforts from corners. Another shot from a forward flew across the face of goal and, with 15 minutes remaining, Ross Johnson did well to get across and deflect a fierce strike into the side-netting.
The match was opening up and, inside the final six minutes, Blues’ trialist David warmed the ‘keeper’s palms with a stinging drive before Kojo Apenteng arrowed another effort narrowly wide. However, at the other end, Smith was not called into action and Southend were able to celebrate an impressive victory. Their pre-season culminates in a trip to St George’s Park on Wednesday afternoon where regular foes Nike Academy will be the opposition.
Southend United U18s: Ted Smith, Jordan Williams (Ross Johnson, 73), Kane Farrell, Daniel King (Michael Ademuliyi, 76), Josh Banton, Daniel Matsuzaka, Brandon Scott (David [trialist], 63), Charlie Barlow (Kojo Apenteng, 71), Jason Williams (Daniel Snook, 76), Macauley Keaton (Harry Norman, 56), Nico Cotton (Emmanuel Adeyeye, 65).
Goals: Jason Williams (63), Farrell (65).