Youth team coach Dave Huzzey was frustrated to see Southend United U18s lost 5-3 at Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday.
The Blues youngsters led 3-1 after just 20 minutes of the clash at Woughton Playing Fields.
“I’m disappointed. We were in the game until about the 75th minute,” he said despite having seen goals from Brandon Scott (two) and Nico Cotton for the Shrimpers overturn an early deficit. “The first half performance from the boys was brilliant and, although MK had loads of possession, as soon as we got possession we punished them.
“The possession that we had was so much more purposeful, and I thought we were class. The first half performance we put in was one of the best I’ve seen, and we were good in the first 20 minutes of the second half. We allowed them to have possession where we wanted them to have possession and we won it when we needed to win it.”
However, Huzzey revealed that he felt that the momentum switched when Blues fell behind for a second time after an hour of the Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference encounter: “I think it was a penalty against Jordan Williams, and he was probably lucky to stay on the pitch, but if he didn’t do it then the boy would have scored anyway,” he claimed.
“They scored the penalty and that changed the game. We couldn’t let them have possession where we let them have possession, we had to go and get it back and we opened ourselves up a little bit and they played through us. The big thing for me is that for 60 minutes of that game we were in it, and for 30 to 40 minutes we were on top of it, and we could have, and should have, punished them when we had the chance to.
“When we went 3-1 up they had a spell when they got back into the game, then we had another spell of about 15 minutes where I thought we were going to get another one and, during that spell, we broke through into the final third, didn’t make the right decision and the ball got nicked and they scored straight after. That summed the game up; we had our chances and we had to go and win the game by a few, but they punished us.”
Huzzey praised the hosts for the way they went about their business, but he bemoaned the naivety in his side’s play that saw them throw away a 3-1 lead during that first half, especially after they had been so clinical in the opening stages with the front four of Scott, Cotton, Freddie Gard and George Burton combining well.
“Take nothing away from MK Dons because they are one of the best teams we’ll play for keeping the ball and because of their individual players, but we were in that game. I’m disappointed with the boys because we got so far, being 3-1 up and the way that we played and the possession that we kept, to concede the two goals in the second half and lose the game 5-3,” he admitted.
“It’s not good enough. MK Dons are one of the hardest teams we’ll play for the simple fact that they rotate and their movement and rotation is really hard to deal with. We knew that, and we coped with that really well in the first half, but the problem we had was that, at 3-1 up, everyone started to think they could get on the scoresheet and instead we had to stay disciplined, and we had to stay tight.
“I think the second goal MK scored summed it up because we were on the attack and we gave the ball away and they went up the other end and scored. As a team, when we gave that ball away we were so open. We’d committed four or five bodies forward, and we were thinking about scoring rather than consolidating what we had.
“I know I’m disappointed in the result, but I am really pleased with the first half performance. We kept the ball, and when the ball went up to George Burton in the first 30 minutes, he was really good. He kept the ball for us and linked everything up, Brandon Scott was really good, Nico Cotton was really good and Freddie Gard was getting in and around the play.
“We looked really threatening going forwards. I know by looking across to them that they had to change their shape - they started 3-5-2 and they had to go 4-3-3 - so that’s a compliment to us. However, when they did, suddenly we couldn’t keep it up top. We went to two up front, and that got the pressure off our back-line for a while and we kicked on for a while, but we left ourselves a bit open. I’m pleased with the first half and the first bit of the second half, but I’m disappointed with the last bit,” concluded Huzzey.