Blues put marker down ahead of the 2014-15 campaign...
Southend United U18s put down a real marker for the upcoming 2014/15 campaign with an outstanding 3-0 victory over Ipswich Town at Playford Road.
Blues have recorded three victories from four matches so far during pre-season, but this was the most impressive given that their hosts were informed this week that their Academy had missed out on Category One status by just 0.3% following an audit under the Elite Player Performance Plan.
Brandon Scott gave Southend the lead in the ninth minute, and the visitors maintained that advantage throughout the first half. Ross Johnson had an effort ruled out for offside early in the second period, but Nico Cotton swiftly made it 2-0 before full-back Emmanuel Adeyeye completed the scoring nineteen minutes from the end.
Blues made a bright start and Norman Wabo made a nuisance of himself up front before seeing a fifth-minute strike deflected wide. From Scott’s resultant corner skipper Johnson rose above a defender at the back post but directed his header off target.
However, with their next attack, the Shrimpers edged in front. The goal typified Southend’s early play as they pressed the Ipswich back-line and the midfielders buzzed around the edge of the penalty area. When Freddie Gard picked up possession just outside the ‘D’, he spotted Scott’s run on the left-hand side of the penalty area, and the winger anticipated the pass quicker than opponent Josh Emmanuel to sweep the ball past the goalkeeper.
Predictably, Ipswich came back strongly. They forced a succession of corners and free-kicks in deep possessions, but the Southend defence, marshalled by first-year scholar Sonny Coutts at centre-back, held firm. Coutts even made a crucial intervention on the line to block James Blanchfield’s crisp shot delivered from the edge of the penalty area in the 20th minute.
Coutts charged down another effort four minutes later before James Macree made a fine save to keep Blues in front. A left-wing corner found the head of George Fowler and his powerful aerial effort was destined for the bottom left-hand corner of the net before Macree leapt to his right to keep it out.
An impromptu drinks break shortly before the half-hour mark gave Southend a chance to regroup, and Wabo’s purposeful midfield run saw him pick out another well-timed Scott run. This time, Ipswich’s trialist goalkeeper was slightly quicker off his line and he managed to avert the danger.
There was a real let-off for Blues two minutes before the break when Ceman Ramadan looped Chris Smith’s long pass over Macree, only for the ball to bounce down off the underside of the crossbar and against the custodian’s head. From there, it ricocheted back against the woodwork before Macree spun around to take control of the situation.
It was important that Southend held on until the break, and they continued to defend well immediately after the interval as substitute Joe Bedford and Adeyeye combined to force a left-wing cross out for a corner. At the other end Blues thought they had extended their lead five minutes after half-time, but Johnson’s side-footed effort into the roof of the net from a Cotton free-kick was chalked off.
The 2-0 scoreline was delayed by just sixty seconds. Renei Batlokwa was the provider with a slide-rule pass to the right-hand side from where Cotton contributed his second goal in just two pre-season appearances as he stroked the ball underneath the goalkeeper with his left foot.
Josh Bexon, who replaced Macree in one of five changes at the break, made a good stop to deny a forward after Harry Phillips had uncharacteristically lost possession in his own half, but he was largely shielded by the back four. Instead, George Burton saw a 25-yard free kick fly past the base of the left-hand upright in the 64th minute.
The third goal, in the 71st minute, came at the end of the move of the game. Adeyeye started it off inside his own half, advancing over the halfway line before finding Gard. He moved play on to Bedford, who then passed the ball to Batlokwa. The midfielder’s flick saw him to offload possession to Johnson and his accurate pass from the right flank was touched past the ‘keeper by Adeyeye, who had continued his run to the edge of the six-yard box.
The move showcased just what the squad are capable of, and they could even have added a fourth goal in stoppage time, first when Scott’s strong strike from a Burton through-ball was saved at the second attempt and then when Johnson’s attempt was deflected wide following Bedford’s cross-field pass to Scott.
Bexon had made an excellent save to keep out Andre Dozzell’s effort with his right hand earlier in the half, but that was a rare threat from the hosts during a superb Southend display. Blues will look to maintain that level of performance this week when they face Colchester United and Charlton Athletic ahead of Saturday’s league opener against Gillingham at Boots & Laces.
Southend United U18s: James Macree (Josh Bexon, 46), Ross Johnson, Emmanuel Adeyeye, Harry Norman Joe Bedford, 46), Sonny Coutts, Daniel Matsuzaka (Abdul Salami, 46), Brandon Scott, Freddie Gard (Renei Batlokwa, 46), Norman Wabo (George Burton, 46), Harry Phillips, Nico Cotton (Gard, 64).
Goals: Scott (9), Cotton (51), Adeyeye (71).