Blues' U18s suffered their heaviest loss since a nine-goal reverse in The FA Youth Cup Fifth Round against Liverpool in February 2011 as Peterborough United inflicted a 7-0 defeat.Ricky Duncan referenced that Raheem Sterling-inspired Anfield scoreline in his post-match de-brief with the squad, but this defeat will have disappointed the Academy Manager more than that night on Merseyside as Jonathan Edwards bagged a hat-trick, Jack Friend scored two and both James Ward and Harry Baldry also netted to help consolidate Peterborough’s position at the top of the fledgling Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference table.
Brandon Scott was recalled to the starting line-up in place of Renei Batlokwa on the right flank and George Burton moved out to the left-hand side to accommodate schoolboy striker Damani Dias - who had impressed enough on Saturday against Leyton Orient to be handed his first U18s start - in the only changes from Blues’ 2-1 victory at the weekend.
Posh were hungrier for possession from the outset, but Blues did have the better of the early openings. Burton cut onto his right foot to fire wide in the eighth minute, and sixty seconds later Joe Bedford sent a shot narrowly off-target from the edge of the penalty area. Home goalkeeper Dion Henry was even called into action for the first time in the eleventh minute, tipping over Harry Phillips’ curling free-kick.
However, Southend were rocked when Peterborough took the lead a minute later. A flowing move through the midfield released Ollie Luto down the inside-left channel he hung up a cross to the back post, where full-back Ward was left unmarked to nod the ball back across goal and into the bottom left-hand corner of Josh Bexon’s goal.
Five minutes later, Bexon was picking the ball out the back of his net for a second time as the hosts administered a double blow. If there was an element of route one football about the build-up from deep inside the Peterborough half, there was real quality in the finish as Friend smashed a dipping half-volley beyond the Southend custodian.
Blues struggled to find a way back into the game as their passing game deserted them, and only Jordan Williams marauding forwards from right-back provided a useful outlet. Tempers began to fray and Abdul Salami was cautioned after a particularly robust challenge, with the referee deeming it necessary to speak to both captains after the incident, although it was Peterborough that continued to control the fixture.
With ten minutes of the first half remaining they scored their third goal. Again the ball arrived from deep inside the Posh half and tempted Friend to attack. Having broken free of the attentions of Salami, the forward beat the advancing Bexon by a fraction of a second, and that meant his touch sent the ball spiralling into the net.
The half ended with Southend spiritedly attacking Henry’s goal. Ross Johnson’s inch-perfect cross-field pass allowed Scott to set up Dias for a 20-yard effort that flew just wide of the base of the right-hand post, and the young forward was also unselfishly teed up by Scott in stoppage time, only to slip as he connected with the ball. The half ended with the Posh defence keeping out close-range attempts by both Dias and Burton.
Duncan threw caution to the wind in the second period. Cotton came on for Burton in a like-for-like replacement, but Norman Wabo’s introduction in place of Salami meant Southend fielded three at the back for the first time this season. Wabo immediately earned a free-kick, from which he headed wide, but Williams was also required to make a desperate tackle in his six-yard box at the other end.
Daniel Matsuzaka then saw Henry brilliantly turn his aerial effort from a lofted Johnson set-piece around the post, and the centre-half was sent up front to add yet more attacking prowess. Unfortunately that left Blues exposed at the back and Edwards converted a Harry Anderson centre from close range midway through the second half.
Ten minutes later, after Bexon had made a smart save besides his right-hand post, it was 5-0 with the same combination providing the ammunition. Anderson broke down the left flank and drilled in a cross that Phillips tried to cut out. The ball took a slight deflection and Edwards flicked the ball past Bexon, who stuck out a leg but couldn’t prevent it nestling in the bottom left-hand corner.
Anderson then set up Baldry for the sixth before Edwards completed his quick-fire hat-trick with the goal of the game, wriggling free from the attentions of Cotton to thump a volley beyond Bexon from an acute angle and complete Southend’s misery.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon, Jordan Williams, Emmanuel Adeyeye, Ross Johnson, Daniel Matsuzaka, Abdul Salami (Norman Wabo, 46), Brandon Scott, Joe Bedford, Damani Dias (Joe Mackenzie, 69), Harry Phillips, George Burton (Nico Cotton, 46). Substitutes not used: James Macree, Kye Mitchell.
Cautioned: Salami (32, foul tackle).