Youth team coach Dave Huzzey was enthusiastic about the future after seeing four schoolboys feature in the team as the U18s defeated Leyton Orient 2-1 on Saturday morning.Schoolboys Cameron John, Damani Dias and Elvis Bwomono all made their debuts and Tom Clifford appeared for just the second time as Blues claimed their first victory of the season in a scrappy encounter at Boots & Laces.
“We’ve played some good stuff in pre-season - and in the first couple of league games, even though we didn’t get the results we wanted - but today we didn’t play as much. We started well in the first 20 minutes, but Orient pressed us a lot higher and we found it hard to try and play out,” Huzzey explained.
“It was a different type of game and sometimes winning games like that are more beneficial to the team, and more pleasing, because it was hard to play. The fact that we stuck in there and did all the ugly things right meant that we got the result we wanted and the boys are over the moon.”
First-year scholar Joe Bedford gave Southend the lead with his first goal for the U18s on ten minutes, but Sandro Semedo equalised two minutes later to leave the game evenly poised at the break. Huzzey was happy to see his young squad learn an important lesson when John’s debut goal put them in front again eleven minutes after the interval.
“With it being such a young group, I think we’re a bit naive. At Stevenage last week we conceded and then conceded again straight away, then this week we scored first and conceded straight away. Today we were naive in the last part of the first half with some of our decision-making.”
“We spoke about it at half-time, and what happened afterwards shows you the good reaction we got from the boys. They want to take on information and they are learning. Rick and I spoke about needing to go and get the ball back as quickly as you can after scoring a goal, and as soon as we scored the next goal we went and pressed the ball and won it back within three seconds. It’s good to work with this bunch as they want to learn,” he said.
The tally of four schoolboys involved in the side matched the number of second-year scholars named and, with Jack Sims, Joe Mackenzie and Kye Mitchell also participating in the matchday experience and Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel having featured during pre-season, Huzzey and Duncan have not been afraid to give their U16s an opportunity.
Huzzey feels that the performance of the youngsters against the O’s gives the managerial team a selection dilemma ahead of the midweek fixture at Peterborough United and next weekend’s outing against Northampton Town: “It was a very young side. We’ve got a lot of injuries and three lads that weren’t in this week, so it was a really good chance for the U16s. They’re more than good enough to play in the youth team and they proved it today.”
“We’ve got really good groups from U16s, U15s downwards and we’ve been really impressed with the U16s. We want to give them more time. It’s not a nice thing to say, but sometimes things like this are good because, although we’ve got a few injuries, it’s good to get these boys in. They showed today how much they can play and they’ve proved to us that we can throw them in whenever we want to.”
“They’ve done themselves a bit of justice because we said to the U16s that it was a chance for them to get themselves on the teamsheet - either starting or on the bench - for the Peterborough game, and for the first-years that were playing that aren’t normally in the side, it was a chance to get themselves in the starting line-up.”
“They’ve made it really hard now for me and Rick to choose a team to go to Peterborough. We set these boys a target that we wanted nine points from the three games and we’re on track with this brilliant result against Leyton Orient,” he declared.
“We’ve got a really good U16s group and we’re not afraid to put them in. Speaking to Orient before the game, they said they had quite a few second-years and they’re quite a physical side, I thought maybe we might struggle, but when you’ve got players of this mindset, where they don’t get into a physical battle because they’re so good technically, it shows how much depth there is in the squad.”
“We couldn’t have asked for anything better. It was really important that we got the result we wanted and hopefully we’ll take that into the Peterborough game and then Northampton on Saturday. These boys are confident they can win all three.”