Southend United under-18's 0-0 Luton Town under-18's
Southend United’s Under-18 team remains unbeaten after two pre-season fixtures following a goalless draw against Luton Town at Boots & Laces on Wednesday afternoon.
Blues faced a very different proposition from Saturday, when they defeated a Watford Development squad 2-1 at the same venue with the visit of Luton, a traditionally strong, physical and powerful side who conformed to that appearance in this fixture. The Hatters made a good start, too, with a header directed inches off target in the opening stages before Luke Chambers had to keep a watchful eye on a shot dragged across the face of his goal.
Town had beaten Southend 3-0 in the final Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference contest of 2012/13, but Ricky Duncan’s side had a perfect opportunity to quickly banish those memories in the seventh minute. Nico Cotton switched the ball to the back post, where Brandon Scott dug the ball out for Freddie Gard. The first-year playmaker, appearing in place of injured captain Jack Bridge, went down under a challenge and Jason Williams stepped up to take the penalty.
Williams, scorer of a superb goal at the weekend, saw his spot-kick saved by the goalkeeper’s trailing leg, and he then hit the outside of the left-hand upright with the goal gaping on the rebound. “I think if Jason had’ve tucked that penalty away, then it might have been a different story today,” remarked the Shrimpers’ Head of Youth Ricky Duncan.
“It would’ve given both Jason and the team great confidence, and we’d’ve had something to build on. I was still pleased with the way we played throughout; you could see that the squad have been listening to what we’ve told them and taken on board what we’ve said,” he said.
Southend settled into a passing style, bringing the ball out from the back whenever possible and then looking to be incisive up front. Unfortunately, they lacked a cutting edge and, in the only other notable action of the first half, a couple of Blues corners in the 34th minute ended with Luton breaking and Luke Chambers having to make a good low save to palm the shot away at full stretch.
Left-back Kane Farrell picked up a knock shortly before half-time, and Duncan made a further eight changes to the starting line-up at the interval with just Chambers and Daniel King remaining on the pitch after the break. Chambers had to do well to grab hold of a stinging strike shortly after half-time, and his boss had encouraging words for him after the final whistle: “Luke’s obviously disappointed not to be involved with the first team, but he’s been professional, he has done what’s required of him on the pitch and he’s kept a clean sheet today,” he said.
King was replaced by Harry Norman just after the hour mark, and Duncan was impressed by the new scholar as well: “We’ve had a look at Harry at right-back and in midfield in these two matches, and he’s done well. At the back we’ve looked solid, and it’s nice that we have players like Sonny [Coates] and Emmanuel [Adeyeye] ready to step in for the established players already.”
Blues were on the back foot for a sizeable period of the second half, but the defence protected Chambers well, even if the hosts saw little of the ball going forwards. A header that was nodded back towards the player delivering the cross instead of goalwards represented the moment the Hatters came closest to troubling Chambers after their initial burst.
Instead it was Southend that ended the game the stronger, with James Pinnock chipping the ball into the net from a narrowly offside position in the 78th minute and then Norman combining with the returning forward just before the end to set up Kojo Apenteng, who saw his driven finish deflected into the side-netting.
“We know we have some areas that we’ve still got to work on before the season starts, but that’s what these matches are designed to do. I was pleased with many aspects of today’s performance, and we’re looking forward to welcoming FA Youth Cup holders Norwich City to Essex on Saturday 20th July for our next match,” Duncan added.
Southend United U18s: Luke Chambers, Harry Norman (Jordan Williams, 46), Kane Farrell (Emmanuel Adeyeye, 39), Daniel King (Norman, 62), Josh Banton (Ross Johnson, 46), Daniel Matsuzaka (Sonny Coates, 46), Brandon Scott (Reiss, 46 (Jason Williams, 85)), Charlie Barlow (Kojo Apenteng, 46), Jason Williams (Daniel Snook, 46 (Rene, 78)), Freddie Gard (Macauley Keaton, 46), Nico Cotton (James Pinnock, 46).