Blues' youth beat Oxford United at Boots & Laces...
Southend United U18s registered their first victory of pre-season by comprehensively defeating Oxford United 4-0 at Boots & Laces.
In a friendly set up in the aftermath of Blues’ 3-1 FA Youth Cup Second Round reverse against the U’s last season, Daniel Matsuzaka, Norman Wabo and Harry Norman were all on target for the hosts during the first half before Harry Phillips put the seal on the success seven minutes from the end.
The fixture was played in two halves of 45 minutes, which marked an increase in seriousness, and each member of the 16-player squad featured for at least 45 minutes as youth team coach Dave Huzzey and Academy Manager Ricky Duncan sought to test their charges ahead of the season, which is just three weeks away.
The teenage Shrimpers proved themselves up to the task. Both sides looked comfortable in possession during the opening nine minutes as play was condensed into the middle third of the pitch but neither goal was threatened until Wabo broke through and fired narrowly wide of the right-hand post at the end of that spell.
That served as the prelude to Blues taking the lead just a minute later. Emmanuel Adeyeye delivered a corner to the near post and pressure from Sonny Coutts forced an Oxford defender to attack the ball, which glanced off his shoulder and against the underside of the crossbar. When it bounced down, Matsuzaka was perfectly positioned to tap into the net from close range to open the club’s pre-season account.
Southend could have added a second just two minutes later when Brandon Scott raided the right flank and cut the ball back for marauding full-back Jordan Williams. His fierce strike was pushed around the post by the goalkeeper to keep it 1-0, but Blues grew in confidence and good interchange between Wabo and Ross Johnson saw George Burton released to fire marginally off-target in the 20th minute.
The homesters maintained that intensity and, within a minute, another Scott centre had found Wabo. When the young forward’s effort was blocked, it fell into the path of Johnson, who could only shoot wide of the left-hand upright from 15 yards out. In the 27th minute, Burton cut inside from his station on the left touchline to win a free-kick, but he curled the mid-range set-piece into the goalkeeper’s gloves.
Josh Bexon, who had been redundant in the first half-an-hour, made a comfortable save to deny a forward before suffering a nervous moment when he failed to connect cleanly with a back-pass in the 33rd minute. That allowed a forward to seize on the ball, but his first touch was a little heavy and Bexon pounced to avert the danger.
Play was soon concentrated at the other end and Blues doubled their lead in the 36th minute, shortly after Coutts had nodded another Adeyeye corner the wrong side of the left-hand upright. When the goal-kick was taken short, good pressure from Wabo and Burton meant that the ball found its way to Johnson. He slipped a pass into the path of Wabo and he made no mistake with a controlled finish over the goalkeeper.
There was still time for a third a couple of minutes before the break. This time the goal came at the conclusion of a wonderful sweeping move, with Wabo initially picking out Williams’ right-wing run. The defender had almost reached the corner quadrant when he crossed for Norman, whose powerful header bounced into the turf and then up into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Full-backs Williams and Adeyeye combined for the latter to pick out Scott with his centre early in the second period, but the winger’s half-volley was hooked over, and Southend began to offload more shots from midfield with substitute Harry Phillips and Freddie Gard both trying their luck from outside the penalty area.
Phillips was one of five substitutes brought on at half-time, and there were a further four changes midway through the second period as Huzzey and Duncan sought to give their players as much game-time as possible. It was one of those re-introduced to the action, Burton, who set-up the final goal as a scuffed shot fell to Phillips, and the midfielder slid onto the loose ball to divert it past the ‘keeper.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon (James Macree, 46), Jordan Williams, Emmanuel Adeyeye, Harry Norman (Joe Bedford, 46), Daniel Matsuzaka (Sonny Coutts, 68), Coutts (Abdul Salami, 46), Brandon Scott (George Burton, 68), Ross Johnson (Norman, 68), Norman Wabo (Harry Phillips, 46), Freddie Gard (Wabo, 68 (Gard, 85)), Burton (Renei Batlokwa, 46).