Southend United squandered a 3-1 advantage to lose just the second match in their last ten outings, 5-3, against Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday morning.
MK Dons took the lead after just five minutes, but Brandon Scott equalised with the game’s next attack and he also added a third after helping to create the second for Nico Cotton. Just 20 minutes had passed at that stage, but the hosts were level by the time the half-time whistle blew and two further goals ensured that they completed a double over Blues during the Football League Youth Alliance season.
Southend were hoping to maintain the momentum that they had built up over the previous month, a period that included three wins in four matches and a 6-0 triumph over non-league Leverstock Green in the First Round of The FA Youth Cup. Coach Dave Huzzey was forced into three changes from that Roots Hall line-up with Emmanuel Adeyeye suspended, Daniel Matsuzaka called up for the first-team and Macauley Keating also missing. U16s left-back Cameron John, plus first-years Abdul Salami and Joe Bedford, came into the side.
The early signs were not promising as MK took the lead in just the fifth minute. The goal was emblematic of their general play as they won the ball inside their own penalty area and broke quickly down the left-hand side. Blues could not get back quickly enough, and a forward was able to convert the driven delivery clinically into the net from close-range.
However, Southend responded well and they were level after nine minutes. George Burton won a corner with a purposeful run down the right-hand side, and Cotton’s cross was met by Ross Johnson. The captain’s header was pushed out by the goalkeeper, but Scott was on hand to force the loose ball over the goal-line and make it 1-1.
Seven minutes later, Blues were in front. Winger Scott was involved once again, bringing the ball unchallenged over the halfway line before stroking the ball into the path of Freddie Gard. The playmaker sent a measured pass across the edge of the penalty area to Cotton, and he made no mistake with his finish to join Burton on five goals for the current campaign.
Within four minutes, Scott had moved onto four goals for the season himself with his second of the morning. The second-year’s strike was a triumph for Southend’s hard-working start to the encounter as Gard’s initial attempt at a pass was cut out, but he persisted and slid the ball through to his team-mate, who gleefully slammed the ball into the top left-hand corner of the net.
It had been a frenetic start to the match, but Blues now attempted to control the pace of the game and slow the match down. They were partially successful, with the hosts restricted to a wayward near-post shot from a corner on the half-hour mark and, seven minutes later, Burton saw a shot deflected wide before Sonny Coutts directed a header wide from Cotton’s flag-kick.
However, Southend’s work was undone in the final five minutes of the first half. MK’s second goal again came after they had won the ball inside their own penalty area, and a quick counter-attack saw another left-wing cross forced underneath Josh Bexon at his near post. Then, on the stroke of half-time, a lofted through-ball created indecision in the Blues back-line that led to a steered finish into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
Huzzey delivered his half-time speech with the scores level and, despite another action-packed start to the second period, it would remain that way until the hour mark. The two teams traded chances with a home forward’s skidding 20-yard shot deflected into the side-netting and Gard meeting Cotton’s cross with a diving header that flew narrowly wide.
Burton then had an opportunity to deliver a ferocious shot from John’s inside pass, but he was ushered away from goal and that gave MK the opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot. Bexon had palmed a shot out, but another forward looked set to tap into an unguarded net when Jordan Williams’ made a desperate attempt to win the ball. He was cautioned for a foul, but the greater punishment was a converted spot-kick that edged the homesters 4-3 in front.
Norman Wabo was sent on to replace Burton up front, but it was Milton Keynes who threatened next after they moved the ball fluidly forwards. A shot from just inside the penalty area bounced back off the right-hand upright and the follow-up skimmed the crossbar, but Blues did have a chance to equalise when Gard set up Wabo, only for the young forward to fire wide.
On 82 minutes, Wabo snatched at another opportunity, smashing a first-time attempt over from Cotton’s chipped pass, but within seconds MK Dons were 5-3 up as substitute Renei Batlokwa surrendered possession in midfield and the hosts moved forwards swiftly to slot home. Bexon made a smart stop with his right leg a couple of minutes later to prevent a sixth but the damage had been done, and Southend will be looking to react positively on Thursday night when they host Barnet at Roots Hall in The FA Youth Cup Second Round.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon, Jordan Williams, Cameron Johns, Ross Johnson, Abdul Salami, Sonny Coutts, Brandon Scott, Joe Bedford (Renei Batlokwa, 78), George Burton (Norman Wabo, 65), Freddie Gard, Nico Cotton. Substitute not used: James Macree.
Goals: Scott (9, 20), Cotton (16).