Jason Williams' goal not enough as Blues beaten in Youth Alliance Cup
“We didn’t get the result that our performance deserved,” was the verdict of Southend United’s Head of Youth, Ricky Duncan, after the club’s Under-18 side lost 3-1 at Colchester United in the Football League Youth Alliance Cup.
Duncan’s sentiments were echoed by youth team coach Dave Huzzey after the final whistle: “We said to the boys at the start of the season that there would be some games where they’ll win and we’ll have the hump and there will be some they’ll lose and we’ll be happy. Today, I’m quite positive about the performance. In the end, we had more than enough chances to win the game.”
Blues’ Youths had been unbeaten during September leading up to this fixture, a run that included a 7-2 victory over Gillingham in their Youth Alliance Cup Group Four opener. Southend’s destiny remains in their own hands, with a home fixture against Peterborough United (on Saturday) and an away game at Stevenage to follow during October, but they will count themselves unfortunate not to have taken at least a point from this encounter.
Indeed, the young Shrimpers could have taken the lead within the first minute as Brandon Scott hared onto a pass down the right-hand side before drawing a fine save from Colchester goalkeeper James Bransgrove at his near post. Farrell’s ensuing corner then caused mayhem in the U’s penalty area, glancing off a home defender before being hacked off the goal-line.
An action-packed opening five minutes continued when Macauley Bonne gave a portent of what was to follow by wriggling free to send a fierce low shot at Ted Smith’s goal from the edge of the penalty area. Smith made a superb save to turn the ball over the crossbar at full-stretch and merely concede a corner.
Blues deservedly took the lead in the sixth minute. Daniel King offloaded the ball to Jason Williams 25 yards from goal and continued his run as a decoy, allowing the striker to arrow his seventh goal of the season into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
Three minutes later King’s chipped cross to the back post following a short Scott corner was nodded narrowly wide by Daniel Matsuzaka, leaving Huzzey delighted by the side’s electrifying start: “I still can’t believe how quickly we came out in the first half. We should’ve scored with the first attack of the game, and then we did really well in the five minutes after that.”
“Jason, again, scored a good goal, but it was just a shame we couldn’t capitalise on that. Straight after the goal we had another five-minute spell where we were on top but, when they nicked one, it was hard from there. Their number 9 [Bonne] finished everything in front of goal, which was the difference today,” he added.
Bonne scored the 39th goal of his Colchester United U18s career in the 17th minute to level the scores. The powerful front-runner latched onto Tyler Brampton’s well-weighted through-ball before outmanoeuvring Matsuzaka and guiding an unstoppable shot beyond Smith.
The hosts were inspired by their equaliser, and Bonne could’ve netted again in the 20th minute when he drilled marginally wide of the right-hand post from 25 yards out. Southend surrendered possession too easily inside their own half during this period, and that allowed their Essex rivals to take the lead midway through the half. Left-back Conor Clarke found Brampton, and he was afforded the opportunity to engineer himself some space 20 yards from goal before firing into the bottom left-hand corner.
Smith did well to tip a looping Bonne header over when it dipped late and appeared destined to drop underneath the crossbar, and Blues held out for the remainder of the first half. Bonne, a veteran of over 50 appearances at Under-18 level, was up against two centre-backs in Matsuzaka and Sonny Coutts who have played less than 30 games between them, and Huzzey felt that this was an invaluable experience for the duo.
“Youth team football is all about learning, and in the team talk afterwards we told the players that it isn’t the result that matters. Dan and Sonny will have learnt loads from Bonne’s movement. For the first goal, he kept getting in-between them and then coming away. They were losing him and he was getting in on goal, so one thing they will learn is to communicate to locate and navigate him at all times. There was a big gap in experience,” he explained.
The start of the second period saw King release Scott on the right flank. The winger fizzed the ball across the face of goal and, although Freddie Gard couldn’t convert, he retrieved it and forced the Colchester defence to scramble it to safety under pressure. Shortly afterwards, Jack Curtis blasted over from a Joshua Fagbohun back-heel for the homesters, but Blues were quickly back in the ascendancy and Williams sprinted onto a Gard pass, only to slash wide.
Just before the hour mark, playmaker Gard combined with Williams again, this time setting up Nico Cotton on the left-hand side, but his shot swung away from goal as he attempted to pick out the top right-hand corner. Colchester made a raft of substitutions and changed their formation, but Southend were undeterred and Williams was unfortunate to be denied by a stunning parried stop by Bransgrove after bringing down a long ball.
Williams then saw a strong shot deflected over by Marley Andrews in the 69th minute and, despite Smith being required to tip substitute Joel Atkin’s stinging effort over with 14 minutes remaining, it was opposite number Bransgrove who proved his excellence again to maintain the U’s lead just seconds later. Scott tracked dangerously across the penalty area before intelligently turning the ball back to Farrell. The left-back crossed precisely for Gard, whose aerial attempt was heading for the right-hand corner until Bransgrove brilliantly kept out it.
“The disappointing thing is that we stayed in the game for long enough to win it,” admitted Huzzey. “We had a 20-minute spell after half-time where we were putting them under real pressure, and we must’ve missed five or six chances during that time. They changed to a 4-3-3 formation, so we counteracted that, hoping that we could be a bit more direct and play the ball in to Jason and get Brandon, who I thought had a really good game, off him. It was a good test for the boys because they had to play with a different shape against a good side.”
Unfortunately, Southend’s hopes of claiming at least a point from the fixture were dashed when the U’s took a 3-1 lead with ten minutes remaining. Tariq Issa delivered a corner to the near post and Bonne was on hand to head home and match Williams’ seven-goal tally for the season so far.
Blues’ own marksman could have made the closing stages interesting, particularly after rounding Bransgrove from Dan Snook’s pass in the 84th minute, but the goalkeeper recovered astonishingly to pounce on the ball after Williams had finally negotiated his way past Andrews. King then pressed a defender into a mistake, presenting the striker with another sight of goal, but this time his strike was charged down.
Smith beat away a stoppage-time Bonne effort, and Ross Johnson made an important block to thwart Issa’s follow-up, but a three-goal margin of defeat would have been even tougher on the visitors. Huzzey concluded his analysis with more positive thoughts on the clash: “The worry coming into this game was how we were going to adapt to facing a side that have been winning, in Colchester, as opposed to last week, when Dagenham arrived having lost all five of their matches, but we did really well. If we could play a team like that every week, on this sort of surface, I’d be more than happy.”
Southend United U18s: Ted Smith, Ross Johnson, Kane Farrell, Daniel King, Sonny Coutts (Harry Norman, 82), Daniel Matsuzaka, Brandon Scott (Kojo Apenteng, 78), Charlie Barlow, Jason Williams, Freddie Gard (Daniel Snook, 78), Nico Cotton. Substitutes not used: Emmanuel Adeyeye
Goal: Williams (6).