Goals from Nico Cotton and Daniel Matsuzaka can't prevent 4-2 defeat to Leyton Orient
Southend United U18s coach Dave Huzzey believes that his team will have learnt a lot from their experiences during a 4-2 Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference defeat at Leyton Orient.
Blues trailed 3-0 at half-time and an unconventional approach from Huzzey and Head of Youth Ricky Duncan at the break helped the side launch a spirited fightback as goals from Nico Cotton and Daniel Matsuzaka reduced the arrears to just one. However, a late header sealed the win for the hosts, who like Southend had triumphed in The FA Youth Cup during the week.
“I think it’s been a big learning curve for the lads today,” said Huzzey. “They spent ten minutes in the changing room on their own working it out at half-time. I stood outside to listen without them knowing and there were some leaders in that group that stood up to be counted, and you could see the difference in the second half performance. We really gave it a go, and the only thing about doing that and changing your shape is that you are going to get exploited at the back and, with Leyton Orient’s pace, that’s what happened in the end.”
“Youth football is not a results business and we want the lads to learn things, and I think today they must’ve learnt something. They got themselves into a situation that they found hard to get out of and a few leaders come out of the group, which was good. Overall, I’m not that disappointed; we lost the game but the performance was worthy of some good things coming from it,” he added.
Daniel King was rested, meaning a first start in a month for Harry Norman in the only change from the starting line-up that beaten Maidstone United 3-2 in midweek, and the match began in very open fashion. Cotton combined with Jack Bridge on the edge of the O’s box in the sixth minute, but when that move broke down the hosts swept forward to the opposite end where Jerome Martelli’s shot flashed narrowly wide.
More good interchange in the Southend midfield almost led to a first attempt on goal in the 12th minute when Bridge combined with Charlie Barlow to roll the ball into Norman’s path. The first-year, who had started the move himself, was preparing to pull the trigger when he was blocked off by a defender. From the ensuing Cotton corner, Brandon Scott saw an effort charged down at close quarters.
Despite that, Blues went behind in the 19th minute. Martelli was the provider, slipping the ball in behind the visiting defence for Scott Kashket to calmly stroke the ball beyond Ted Smith and add to his effort against AFC Totton on Thursday night.
Orient almost doubled their advantage immediately when Shola Oladipu’s skidding strike squirmed out of Smith’s grasp, but he quickly reacted to smother Martelli’s follow-up with the assistance of the covering Emmanuel Adeyeye. Unfortunately the reprieve was only temporary as the O’s made it 2-0 midway through the first half, Martelli powerfully meeting a right-wing corner before claiming the final touch as the ball was hooked over the line.
Having been rocked by that quickfire double, Southend attempted to establish a base from which to get back into the game, and they almost halved the deficit in the 24th minute when Barlow met Cotton’s precise cross but his volley was comfortably gathered by Ben Bridle-Card. Unfortunately, with their next attack, Orient made it 3-0. There was nothing that Smith or his defence could do about this goal, Martelli’s pass being expertly flicked up and volleyed into the top left-hand corner by Kashket from just inside the penalty area.
As the rain got heavier Blues poured forward in an attempt to score, and Williams side-footed wide from a Scott centre before a driven cross by the ever-present winger was deflected just beyond the far post. However, at the other end, they were fortunate not to concede in first-half stoppage-time when a free-kick was not cleared and only some desperate defending saw the ball eventually roll out of play for a goal-kick.
“We were 3-0 down in the first half and yet both myself and Ricky Duncan still felt on the sideline that we could win the game. We conceded one from a set-piece and another was a very good finish. We went in at half-time and said to the boys that they needed to sort it out amongst themselves. We didn’t feel that it was anything about the shape or the tactics at that time and the players agreed,” assessed Huzzey.
After using their own initiative during the interval, the Shrimpers sprung into action in the second half. Within eight minutes of the restart, they had deservedly pulled a goal back as Jason Williams allowed Barlow’s return pass to Cotton to slide into the flanker’s path and he tucked the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.
Having recently rescued a 4-4 draw at Stevenage in stoppage time and bounced back from the disappointment of letting a two-goal lead against Maidstone slip to progress in The FA Youth Cup, the team possesses immense belief and, after Banton had prevented Kashket from registering a hat-trick with an important near-post block, they went about further concerning the hosts.
Just before the hour mark, Scott saw a fierce strike deflected wide and Banton couldn’t quite direct a header from Cotton’s resultant corner on target, whilst in the 61st minute a purposeful Jordan Williams run ended with the full-back spreading the play to Cotton, whose cross was claimed by Bridle-Card just before Jason Williams could divert it home.
The second goal arrived on 64 minutes after further pressure. Blues won a left-wing corner and Bridge played it short to Scott before receiving the ball back. That allowed the first-year scholar to engineer more space in anticipation of collecting another pass which he swiftly delivered to the back post, where Matsuzaka climbed imperiously to plant his header beyond Bridle-Card.
“I’ve got to be honest and say the first half performance of Dan at the back was really poor, but I felt that he learnt something today and became a bit more of a man, especially in the second half when he popped up with one of the goals as well. He might have learnt a lesson today, which is good,” commented Huzzey.
Matsuzaka was well-placed to nod an Oladipu effort off the goal-line in the 78th minute but, by that stage, Southend had lost some of their momentum and their prospects of claiming at least a point were additionally hindered by Orient’s fourth goal, a back-post header from a player allowed to ghost in unmarked to meet a corner.
“It’s annoying that we got the two goals back to make it 3-2 and then they nicked another one from a set-piece. On both set-pieces that we conceded from, players lost their man and they admitted that today, so that’s something we’ll have to have a chat about,” Huzzey confirmed afterwards.
“We got it back to 3-2 and we played as though we felt like we were going to win 5-3, but it was still 3-2 so we need to try and build on what we’ve got without going over the top. When we got the ball down on the floor today and passed it we looked by far the better team, and when we made the pitch big I was really impressed but, when we went a bit more direct and we had numbers bombing on, it left us exploitable at the back and Orient did that.”
Unsurprisingly, there were chances at both ends during the closing stages as Jason Williams flicked namesake Jordan’s cross over the crossbar and Martelli chipped over from 25 yards, but the game ended on another high point for Southend with schoolboy Danny Gold handed a debut in injury time. Next week, Blues travel to Portsmouth for another tricky encounter, although Huzzey believes there is something to work on.
“Portsmouth will be a tough one; they’re doing really well, but we can take a bit of heart from the second half performance. I honestly believe, from what the players have said, that we won’t get into the same situation again. When you’re 3-0 down at half-time and you’re not playing that badly, it’s tough to take. I think individual mistakes cost us today, and that’s something we can rectify,” he concluded.
Southend United: Ted Smith, Jordan Williams, Emmanuel Adeyeye (Danny Gold, 90+3), Harry Norman (Freddie Gard, 68), Josh Banton, Daniel Matsuzaka, Brandon Scott, Charlie Barlow (Kojo Apenteng, 83), Jason Williams, Jack Bridge, Nico Cotton. Substitutes not used: Ross Johnson, Macauley Keating.
Goals: Cotton (53), Matsuzaka (64).