Southend United U18's 2-1 Watford U18's
Southend United Under-18s kicked off their pre-season campaign with a 2-1 victory over a Watford Development Squad on a cloud-free morning at Boots & Laces.
Blues’ Head of Youth Ricky Duncan drew plenty of positives from the success, earned due to goals from second-year scholars Josh Banton and Jason Williams inside the first of three half-an-hour periods. “That was a strong Watford squad; we saw a list of the names and there were plenty of 18 and 19-year-olds out there, so it was a good win to kick things off.
“We’ve been back on the training ground for a week, and it was good to get a look at everyone in a match situation. I thought both of our goals were excellent and Luke Chambers had very few saves to make at the other end,” he added.
Chambers was named in goal as Ted Smith was called into the first-team squad for their own pre-season friendly at Great Wakering Rovers, but he had little to do inside the opening stages as Southend made an excellent start. Nico Cotton blazed wide in the first minute after connecting with Brandon Scott’s right-wing centre, and Williams later tested the goalkeeper with a strong shot from 15 yards.
Blues took a deserved lead in the seventh minute from Cotton’s precise corner kick delivery. The new scholar fizzed the ball to the near post and Banton was perfectly placed to plant an unmarked header into the net from close range.
Watford had just returned from some warm weather training in Tenerife, but conditions will have been little different in south-east Essex and they began to adapt to their surroundings with Chambers standing tall to make a smart save at his near post in the 22nd minute. The Hornets went on to equalise on the half-hour mark as a result of their greater possession when a back-post header was angled into the bottom right-hand corner from their captain’s free-kick on the left touchline.
It took less than sixty seconds for Southend to respond. Scott, a precocious talent on the right flank, worked hard to pick out Williams on the edge of the penalty area and he curled the ball superbly beyond the helpless goalkeeper to make it 2-1 during stoppage time at the end of the first period.
Duncan made five changes at the break, amongst them the introduction of James Pinnock for his first appearance on the pitch since suffering a serious knee injury in a mid-season friendly at Portsmouth in November 2011. Jack Bridge, skippering the side, jinked through the midfield in the 34th minute, but couldn’t find the target with his off-balance strike.
Two minutes later, Pinnock almost made a fairytale return to action as he latched onto Scott’s well-weighted pass. He skidded the ball past the ‘keeper, but the ball agonisingly rebounded off of the left-hand upright before the follow-up was blocked by a Watford defender.
Scott limped off the pitch shortly afterwards, but a swathe of further changes failed to knock Southend out of their stride and Pinnock failed to beat the Watford custodian in the 52nd minute when Matsuzaka nodded Freddie Gard’s back-post corner into his path.
The visitors pressed on in the final half-an-hour, but neither goalkeeper was truly tested as the heat partially sapped the energy of both teams. The Shrimpers held firm to claim victory in their opening encounter, and they will look to build on the performance when they welcome Luton Town on Wednesday afternoon for their next friendly.
Southend United U18s first 30 minutes: Luke Chambers, Jordan Williams, Kane Farrell, Daniel King, Josh Banton, Daniel Matsuzaka, Brandon Scott, Charlie Barlow, Jason Williams, Jack Bridge, Nico Cotton.
Southend United U18s second 30 minutes: Chambers, Harry Norman, Banton (Matsuzaka 48), Sonny Coates, Emmanuel Adeyeye, Scott (Kojo Apenteng, 48), King (Ross Johnson, 48), Macauley Keaton, Cotton (Freddie Gard 52), Bridge (Barlow, 52), James Pinnock.
Southend United U18s third 30 minutes: Chambers, Norman (Jordan Williams, 76), Matsuzaka, Coates, Adeyeye (Farrell, 76), Apenteng, Johnson, Keaton (Rene, 80), Gard, Barlow (Norman, 85), Pinnock (Jason Williams, 70).