Agyakwa and Williams sealed win against Category Two side
Southend United’s Under-18 side warmed up for their Football League Youth Alliance Cup Southern Section Quarter-Final against Watford by defeating Queens Park Rangers 2-1 in a friendly at Boots & Laces.
Blues took the lead through Marlon Agyakwa in the ninth minute, but they were pegged back with 20 minutes remaining and seemed to have missed their opportunity to claim a morale-enhancing victory when Jason Williams saw a last-minute penalty saved. However, Williams bounced back by converting in stoppage time to seal the success and please boss Ricky Duncan.
“It’s a shame this wasn’t a League match!” quipped the Shrimpers’ Head of Youth after the match, referencing his side’s lack of fortune in dual meetings with the Hoops during 2011/12. “QPR are a very good Category Two Academy who are top of their division, so this was the perfect test for us in many ways,” he added.
Duncan named a strong side in the first half including the returning Rob Hyams in his regular left-back berth after he had missed the previous five months through injury. Dan Snook was given another opportunity to impress up front, and he almost grabbed an early goal when he drilled an eight-yard attempt past the left-hand upright in the first minute.
It didn’t take long for Southend to take the lead. Jack Edwards released Mitchell Pinnock on the left flank and the winger cut inside to test the goalkeeper with a right-footed strike. The save rebounded into the path of Agyakwa, who dropped his shoulder to evade the challenge of a defender and slotted into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
Agyakwa could have added a rapid second when Snook outmuscled the goalkeeper challenging for an aerial ball and it dropped into the path of the right-footed flier, who chipped the custodian, only for a defender to cover and nod off the goal-line. Blues were right on top during this portion of the match, and Hyams and Pinnock soon combined on the left to set up Snook for an inventive back-heel that floated narrowly over with the ‘keeper beaten.
QPR’s first opening in the 24th minute led to Ted Smith making a smart save, but play quickly switched to the opposite end and the dangerous Agyakwa, who teed up Snook for a sweeping effort over the crossbar. Within seconds Fope Coker had forced the goalkeeper to turn a 28-yard drive around the post and, from the ensuing corner, Snook was unlucky to see his hooked cross-cum-shot drop the wrong side of the right-hand post.
Blues were deservedly ahead, although it required a superb save from Smith to keep them in front eleven minutes before half-time. The young shotstopper fully extended his right arm to tip a centre-half’s stabbed attempt away from the top left-hand corner.
“I was really pleased with the first-half performance. Our two centre-backs played really well, as did Jack Edwards, who was excellent in the middle of the park. We put together some crisp passing moves and created some good openings,” said Duncan, who made seven changes to the line-up during the interval.
Initially schoolboy centre-half Dan Missoussa had to make a well-timed challenge in the six-yard box to deflect a close-range finish over the bar, but Blues coped with the intermittent QPR threat well, and Kojo Apenteng smashed a 25-yarder inches off target just after the hour mark.
However, with a little over 20 minutes left, the visitors were gifted a route back into the match. Charlie Barlow, who was feeling his way back to fitness after his recent lay-off, attempted a pass back to Missoussa with the outside of his boot and that allowed QPR’s forward to slide his shot beyond Smith and into an identical spot to Agyakwa’s early finish.
There was no suggestion that Southend would settle for the draw, and Duncan brought on the more-experienced Kamal Creary and Edwards during the next ten minutes. On 77 minutes Kane Farrell swung the ball in to Williams, who chested it down and attempted a spectacular acrobatic overhead kick on the edge of the box that flew over. Six minutes later, Edwards saw a strike from a similar distance deflected off-target and, in the 89th minute, the Shrimpers skipper brought a decent save from the QPR ‘keeper with a ball that bounced up awkwardly off the deteriorating surface.
Within seconds, Apenteng’s fierce shot from the ‘D’ crashed into a defender’s raised arm and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Williams volunteered to take the twelve-yarder but, despite striking the spot-kick cleanly, he was denied by a stunning save. The first-year striker refused to let his head go down and, when his chance came two minutes into stoppage time, he delivered a strong shot that took a heavy deflection and looped over the unfortunate goalkeeper to make it 2-1.
“Jason’s penalty was struck well, and he was unlucky to be denied by an excellent save,” Duncan opined. “But he picked himself up and I was pleased to see him grab the winner. It was good to see how we’d go against an Academy from the next level up, and I thought we acquitted ourselves well. I’d like to thank QPR for sending down two teams – the Under-16s also played against them – and we’re now well-prepared for our midweek contest with Watford.”
That Youth Alliance Cup tie has been put back 24 hours, so kick-off at Boots & Laces is now 2.00pm on Wednesday 20th February. Northampton Town await the winners in the Area Semi-Finals, with Bristol Rovers having booked their spot in the Area Final with a 2-0 win over Portsmouth on Saturday morning.
Southend United:Ted Smith, Daniel King, Kane Farrell (Robert Hyams, 46), Jack Edwards (Sam [trialist], 46), Dan Missoussa, Josh Banton, Marlon Agyakwa (Alan [trialist], 46 (Kamal Creary, 70)), Jack Bridge (Kojo Apenteng, 46), Daniel Snook (Jason Williams, 46), Fope Coker (Charlie Barlow, 46), Mitchell Pinnock (Michael Ademuliyi, 46 (Edwards, 79)).
Goals: Agyakwa (9), Williams (90+2).