Youngsters beaten in their first pre-season game...
Southend United U18s began their preparations for the 2014/15 season with a 2-0 home defeat to Millwall, although the teenage Shrimpers were unfortunate not to take anything from the match following a promising performance.
Indeed, Blues hit the woodwork on no fewer than three occasions and also missed a guilt-edged opportunity to level the scores just before the hour mark when Norman Wabo raced clear and sent the ball inches wide of the left-hand upright. The visitors doubled their lead just a minute later and there was no way back for Ricky Duncan’s charges.
The match was split into three half-hour periods and Southend made numerous changes during each interval in order to make sure that every member of the squad played at least 30 minutes. It was the visitors who started on the attack, and Emmanuel Adeyeye was required to make an important intervention in the fourth minute to force the ball out for a corner.
Blues were on the back foot and Millwall struck the outside of the post two minutes later when a corner dropped to a forward ten yards out and his stabbed effort glanced off of the left-hand upright. However, second-year scholar Brandon Scott galvanised his side and two right-wing runs inside three minutes could have ended with the game’s opening goal.
Scott’s first foray forwards came in the ninth minute when he was released to cut the ball back across the edge of the six-yard box. Midfielder Joe Bedford was arriving to finish the move, but he failed to make a clean connection and the chance passed. Perhaps Scott still had that in mind when he darted down the inside-right channel again and elected to fire goalwards from an acute angle, forcing the goalkeeper into a good stop.
George Burton scored on both of his appearances for the U18s last season, and he fashioned an opening in the 20th minute by exchanging passes with Freddie Gard. A skidding shot was gathered well by the goalkeeper, and that allowed Millwall to take the lead after a quarter of the game. Abdul Salami had done well to usher a forward away from goal and block a shot out for a corner, but the Blues back-line was breached when a driven right-wing cross was slotted into the bottom right-hand corner of the net at the far post.
James Macree in the Southend goal saved a curling free-kick late in the period to keep his side in contention and, after making a swathe of changes, Blues began to exert a level of control. Jordan Williams, Daniel Matsuzaka and captain Ross Johnson were the only three players to stay on the pitch, and the skipper went closest to equalising when his header from a Harry Phillips corner thudded against the crossbar.
Blues continued to press on, with a midfield three of Phillips plus second-years Harry Norman and Macauley Keating working hard to win and then retain possession. Despite that, it was a moment of individual brilliance from young forward Wabo that nearly resulted in a leveller as he sprinted away from the defence and gently lifted the ball over the goalkeeper, only to see his shot drift agonisingly wide.
Millwall hit back with a neat pass to a forward on the edge of the ‘D’ ending in a shot that flew narrowly wide, and they then extended their lead within a minute of the beginning of the final period when a right-wing move was finished with aplomb. A fresh Southend side still did not feel that the match was beyond them, and Scott’s curling strike was turned around the post - and just out of Keating’s reach - by the ‘keeper in the 64th minute.
Scott was involved again three minutes later when Southend struck the frame of the goal for a second time. His corner was blocked back into his path, and he sent a swirling cross to the back post where Gard diverted the ball against the right-hand post with the goalkeeper beaten. Burton then following suit when his hanging left-wing cross bounced on the top of the crossbar, but it was not to be Southend’s day.
Southend United U18s (first period): James Macree, Jordan Williams, Emmanuel Adeyeye, Ross Johnson, Abdul Salami, Daniel Matsuzaka, Brandon Scott, Joe Bedford, George Burton, Renei Batlokwa, Freddie Gard.
Southend United U18s (second period): Josh Bexon, Johnson, Sonny Coutts, Matsuzaka, Kane Farrell, Williams, Harry Norman, Macauley Keating, Harry Phillips, Tom Clifford, Norman Wabo.
Southend United U18s (third period): Macree (Bexon, 76), Norman, Salami, Coutts, Farrell (Batlokwa, 76), Scott, Keating (Phillips, 80), Bedford, Gard, Adeyeye, Burton (Wabo, 76).