Fourth straight win for Southend United's under-18's
Trialist Ellis Brown and winger Brandon Scott scored either side of the half-time interval to help Southend United U18s earn a fourth straight success with a 2-1 victory over Barnet at Boots & Laces.
Blues are now unbeaten in six competitive matches, and seven in total including a friendly win at Norwich City last week, as they continue their strong conclusion to the 2013/14 campaign, although they had to work hard for this triumph against a dogged Barnet side. “It was good that we won the game and kept our little run going, but the performance wasn’t great,” acknowledged youth team coach Dave Huzzey after the match.
“The boys could’ve played a lot better. It was a bit scrappy, and Barnet had spells when they were really good going forwards. We knew that they would try to put pressure on the back four and our holding midfield player and, in the periods that we did control the game, we were good, but we didn’t do it often enough and that’s probably the biggest disappointment of the day. When you play against a side like Barnet that do press high, you need to break the first line and control the game from the midfield, and we could’ve done that better today,” he added.
Jordan and Jason Williams both missed out, meaning starts for Ross Johnson at right-back and Brown up front, whilst Freddie Gard reverted to his usual midfield role. Brown, a second-year recently released by Charlton Athletic, made an impressive start, working the goalkeeper hard to induce a fluffed clearance in the fourth minute, but Jack Bridge couldn’t seize the opportunity as he was tackled by a defender when he was about to shoot.
Southend went even closer to opening the scoring in the eighth minute when Josh Banton met a Brandon Scott corner at the near post and nodded against the crossbar, whilst another flag-kick just seconds later led to the ball being punched out to Johnson, who forced the ‘keeper into a useful stop. However, Barnet were slowly getting into the game, and Banton had to make a superb sliding challenge in the 13th minute to stop a forward from converting a right-wing centre.
Another right-sided attack saw a shot flash across Josh Bexon’s goal and, when Scott and Bridge combined to set up Gard for a low shot at the goalkeeper in the 25th minute, it came at the end of a lengthy spell of possession for the visitors. The tide eventually turned and, shortly after the half-hour mark, captain Bridge created another chance for his side when he delivered a cross that Scott volleyed over whilst unmarked six yards from goal.
There was no mistake from Brown nine minutes before the interval when he gave the Shrimpers the lead. A wonderful cross-field pass from Scott was brought down on the left-hand side by Nico Cotton and, after he had progressed into the penalty area, the ball was rolled into the path of the trialist forward, who had the simplest of tasks to tap into the net from close-range.
Blues were enjoying their best period of the match, and Johnson forced the goalkeeper into a splendid full-length save having exchanging passes with Scott on the right flank before Bridge curled marginally wide of the right-hand upright from the edge of the penalty area. But, despite this dominance, Southend were relieved to go in all-square at the break as Barnet broke free during the final five minutes of the half, leading to a couple of good chances.
First Bexon did brilliantly to stand up and thwart a forward in a one-on-one situation, then he reacted well to tip a looping header over the bar from the resultant 42nd-minute corner. In stoppage time a long-range strike was deflected over, and the schoolboy custodian had to be commanding to claim the ensuing set-piece at his near post to close out the opening period.
Barnet began the second period well, but organised defending saw a spell of pressure relieved and Scott enjoyed the first clear-cut chance of the second period when he worked his way into the penalty area from Kane Farrell’s short free-kick, only for the ‘keeper to parry out his fierce shot and for him to then smash the rebound over.
Another good save from the shotstopper denied Bridge after his run from midfield had gone untracked, but the skipper got his head up quickly to set up the second goal in the 54th minute. A measured pass saw Scott released in the penalty area, and the former Charlton wide-man rolled his ninth goal of the season into the net via the inside of the right-hand post.
The first-year scholar had extra reason to net against the Bees as Huzzey revealed: “We’re going on a residential activity, which includes sky-jumping and things like that, and Brandon said that he didn’t want to go on part. Ricky said that if he didn’t score today, then he’d definitely be doing it, so he had to score today and he’s chipped in with nine goals this season from wide areas, which is brilliant. We can still improve on his end-product with his delivery into the box and his last pass, but overall he’s been an asset to the team this year.”
Southend could have made the game safe just before the hour mark but Ricky Louch, another trialist forward, nodded Scott’s cross at the goalkeeper and Farrell’s bouncing half-volley was bundled to safety, and that gave Barnet renewed hope. Bexon made an excellent save when unsighted by a defender to push away a fierce strike and then, in the 63rd minute, he made another useful stop with his trailing leg before the follow-up was cleared off the goalline by Johnson.
It appeared that Blues had ridden out the storm, and Daniel Matsuzaka headed an inviting Farrell free-kick over before Bridge drew another fine save from the goalkeeper a quarter-of-an-hour from the end, but Barnet had other ideas and they halved the deficit with seven minutes remaining when a left-wing attack culminated in a clinical finish beyond Bexon.
The hosts began to sit very deep and invite pressure on but, with exception of one routine stop at his near post, Bexon was not extended during the closing stages and Blues held on to keep their victorious run going: “Josh was excellent. He made a really good save one-on-one when he got a strong hand to the ball, and Barnet had chances to beat us today. I’m glad they didn’t, but although we had plenty of opportunities, so did they and, but for Josh and Ross Johnson on the goalline, it could’ve been a different scoreline,” Huzzey remarked.
“On the whole, in the last seven games, the performances have matched the results and we’re on a real high. It should perhaps be seven wins, but I’m delighted with the way the boys are finishing the season. Watford next week will be our last game with this group of lads and the pros that are going to go up now, and we’re really excited to get the new bunch in, especially after seeing excellent performances from Josh and Sonny Coutts again today,” he concluded.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon, Ross Johnson, Kane Farrell, Harry Norman, Josh Banton, Daniel Matsuzaka, Brandon Scott, Freddie Gard (Sonny Coutts, 66), Ellis Brown (Ricky Louch, 55), Jack Bridge, Nico Cotton (Macauley Keating, 79). Substitutes not used: Emmanuel Adeyeye, Keith Orenuga.
Goals: Brown (36), Scott (54).
Cautioned: Cotton (68, foul tackle), Coutts (90, delaying the restart of play).