Academy Manager Ricky Duncan was left frustrated on Saturday morning as individual errors contributed to a 3-1 defeat for Southend United U18s against Stevenage.
“I’m very disappointed. I thought the three goals could’ve been avoided,” he declared after a game in which Nico Cotton scored for Blues. “ You look at the first goal and, although last week we got away with it against Gillingham when we played the ball in to Harry Norman, again he’s come short, but just because he’s come and offered himself doesn’t mean you’ve got to give it.”
“I think James Macree made a wrong decision in giving him the pass, but the pass back to him was awful and the forward has gone round him at a time when we were dominating the game. We were well on top and in control and then found ourselves 1-0 down, and then the second goal arrived.”
“I said to James at half-time that I didn’t know what he was doing going out that far to try and win the ball. He had no right as a goalie to try and get that, and it was a penalty. As a result, within two minutes we were 2-0 down.”
“I feel for James because obviously he wants to make an impression in his first game of the season in the league, but you can’t make those kind of decisions and he’s got to learn from that. Harry’s back-pass was rubbish, and that put James in a tough situation, but it was one that he could’ve avoided himself.”
“We then had some good patches of play and we created enough opportunities to get something, and we started again in the second half, but again I felt the third goal could’ve been avoided with some better defending, which we’ve been good at all pre-season. The third goal killed the game,” he explained.
Duncan was pleased with the composition of Southend’s goal just before the half-hour mark as Cotton dribbled around the goalkeeper after receiving a superb long pass from Norman, but he felt that the team didn’t finish enough of the chances they created, despite fighting to the final whistle.
“Our goal was a typical goal for us; there was some slick passing and a good finish, but we don’t finish off enough of our chances. Their ‘keeper had more saves to make than James all game, and we were in their half of the pitch a lot more than they were in ours, but the bottom line is that you’ve got to put the ball in the back of the net and, if you give three chances like we have today, you deserve to lose,” he said.
“This team won’t give up, that’s the good thing about them. They’re a great bunch in terms of that. I had words with Nico Cotton at the end when there was a cross to the back post because he wasn’t brave enough. He tried to chest it in, but if he tried to head it then he’d’ve scored and we’d’ve ended the game losing 3-2 and nicked a goal.”
“But the team do keep going to the end, even with that cross in the final minute. They’re disappointed “and we’re disappointed because, even though we lost 3-1, we were the better team against Stevenage. I don’t normally say that when we lose but, on this occasion, I did think that.”
However, there were positives for Blues in the shape of a debut for schoolboy centre-half Joe Mackenzie and the performance of full-back Emmanuel Adeyeye, who Duncan believes is developing well this season.
“Joe Mackenzie’s an U16; we gave him a debut and that’s what it’s all about. It’s the same at any level; you’ve got to give an opportunity for them to play the next level up. It’s no good if you don’t expose players to that all the way through.”
“You can’t buy experience, and boys will only get that experience if you give them an opportunity to play at the next level. The idea at this football club is that the U16s get to play in the U18s, U18s push on and get to play in the U21s and hopefully some of the U21s will get a chance to push on and show what they can do in the first team.”
“That’s the only way forward, and I believe that. If I’m preaching that, and I don’t give 16-year-olds a chance in my team, what right have I got to ask the manager to give people like Jason Williams and Jack Bridge a chance to play in his team?”
“It’s about developing players to go in our first team, so it was great to see Joe out there, and he looked comfortable. He can handle U18s football, and we’ve always said that about Joe. If Dan Matsuzaka starts playing regularly in the U21s, then that’s great because Joe will play regularly in the U18s and everyone’s playing up and learning. I thought he had a good game when he came on.”
“I thought Manny again at left-back stood out for me. He’s like a different player this season. His decision-making and his passing, some of his recovery runs and use of his body were excellent. I was watching him throughout the game, and now I think we’re seeing the player we knew was in there last year when he lacked confidence.”
“He’s now got that confidence and he’s starting to show what a good left-back he can be. He’s got to fill out, but he’s starting to show glimpses of truly exceptional defending; he can get forward and he can get back and, by the end of the year, hopefully he’ll be pushing on a bit more.”
“Norman Wabo also worked his socks off for us up front. He’s 16-years-old and he’s trying to learn the game, and I was pleased with him. He tries back-heels and overhead kicks, but that’s what goalscorers do, they try something out of the ordinary. Although at times we played well, the rest had a few moments where they were a bit sloppy, and that’s what’s cost us today,” he concluded.