Southend United U18s bounced back from the disappointment of a midweek defeat to Peterborough United to record a 2-0 victory over Northampton Town.Academy Manager Ricky Duncan stressed after the fixture that this result was only the start of the recovery after that 7-0 reverse at Nene Park Academy, but Blues showed good character to defeat the Cobblers thanks to goals from Harry Phillips and George Burton. It was Southend’s second successive home win, and they remain unbeaten at Boots & Laces this term.
Duncan was keen for his team to play football in the early stages, and at no stage was that more evident than when Phillips gave the Shrimpers the lead in the 16th minute. Nico Cotton began the move, sliding the ball out to the right flank for Jordan Williams. He hung a cross up to the back post, where Brandon Scott nodded the ball back to Phillips and the first-year scholar thumped a volley home through a crowded six-yard box.
Before that strike, the game had been evenly-contested. Indeed, Northampton could have taken the lead inside the opening sixty seconds when a fierce shot was delivered from the left-hand side and goalkeeper Josh Bexon made good ground to his right to turn the ball around the post. At the other end, Norman Wabo exchanged passes with Phillips before seeing the goalkeeper smother the ball as he attempted to round him.
Phillips could have scored eight minutes before he eventually did. This time Brandon Scott was the player who supplied the ever-willing Williams down the right-hand side and his cross was glanced wide by the playmaker as he arrived late in the penalty area.
Having conceded shortly after going ahead in their fixture against Leyton Orient last weekend, Blues were intent on holding onto their advantage in the immediate aftermath of Phillips’ goal. In order to do so, they were reliant on Bexon making a smart stop from a side-footed finish and the profligacy of a Cobblers forward who fired wide from a right-sided free-kick.
Midway through the opening period another lung-busting run from Williams at the other end allowed him to latch onto Joe Bedford’s pass and his return ball was chipped over the crossbar before Nico Cotton fired inches wide on the half-hour mark. Northampton seemed to want to make the match more physical as the first half drew to a close, although it was Southend that were relieved to see a couple of dangerous free-kicks come to nothing for the visitors.
Scott sent a shot flying across the face of goal in the early stages of the second period, but Northampton’s threat continued to increase. Some good defending from Daniel Matsuzaka and Ross Johnson shepherded a forward away from goal in the 57th minute, and Bexon made a flying save to his right shortly afterwards as the Cobblers switched play to opposite right flank.
Twelve minutes later the custodian made an even more impressive stop, scrambling along his goal-line to save besides the base of his left-hand upright after a forward had been found in space by a square pass. Burton and Damani Dias were sent on to add some attacking impetus for Blues, but schoolboy Dias was instead involved in an unfamiliar defensive capacity to track back and effect a fine challenge in his own penalty area after Southend had lost possession in midfield in the 81st minute.
However, the youngster almost scored his first U18s goal five minutes later when he was found by Scott’s centre and, despite being denied by a block on the goal-line, Southend did seal their success shortly afterwards. This time Wabo made good ground to collect the ball down the right and he crossed for Burton to turn in his first goal of the season from ten yards out.
Wabo almost added a third deep into stoppage time, but he steered the ball wide of the goal having beaten the goalkeeper to a slick through-ball from Dias. Blues had already done enough to win, and they will be seeking to build on the victory when they welcome AFC Wimbledon to Boots & Laces on Thursday afternoon for a knockout Youth Alliance Cup Second Round tie.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon, Jordan Williams, Emmanuel Adeyeye, Ross Johnson, Abdul Salami, Daniel Matsuzaka, Brandon Scott, Joe Bedford, Norman Wabo, Harry Phillips (Damani Dias, 73), Nico Cotton (George Burton, 68). Substitute not used: James Macree.
Goals: Phillips (16), Burton (88).