Dave Huzzey hails Blues' evolution following latest win over Dagenham & Redbridge.
Coach Dave Huzzey hailed the evolution of Southend United’s youth team squad during the current campaign after they recorded back-to-back victories in rapid succession against Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge.
Blues beat the Bees 1-0 to reach the Third Round of The FA Youth Cup at Roots Hall on Thursday evening and, less than 40 hours later, they took to the field again, this time at Boots & Laces, to register an important 4-3 Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference success over a difficult Daggers side.
“It was a good performance,” said Huzzey. “In the first half we were really, really good and some of the goals were scored and the football we played was class, but we had to hold on at the end which was a bit disappointing because I felt that we had more than enough of the ball and more than enough in front of goal to be out of sight in the game.
“We allowed Dagenham back in, and they were a good side today. We allowed them the chances to get three goals, and they did that, so we needed to be a bit more professional at the end of the game and I don’t think our game-management was as good as it could be,” he added.
The Professional Development Phase Coach felt that the proximity of the two matches would provide useful experience for his charges should they earn a place in the first-team squad, and he was again impressed with the clinical nature of the team’s finishing as Nico Cotton and Norman Wabo both netted ahead of Brandon Scott’s brace.
“As much as you tell them in the week that they’re going to have to turn up because Dagenham are going to be in your face and a good side, I think we approached the game with the attitude that we had played Thursday and we were a little bit tired, mentally more than physically - even the subs - and they can’t do that,” opined Huzzey.
“They have to go out and perform every time they play, whether it’s Thursday-Saturday or not. After the first goal, I think it was a wake-up call and we did a little bit better after that. The football we played was really good in the first half, but I’m just a little bit disappointed that we had to make it a battle in the second half.
“We were clinical again in front of goal. That’s what we’ve been asking of them, and that’s what we’ve been getting in both FA Youth Cup ties, against Peterborough and even at MK Dons, when we scored three goals.
“Defensively we needed to make sure we shored up, and we’ve done that until this game, but I think at times today we allowed them too much time and too much space in and around our box to go and score. We can put that down to the boys being tired physically or mentally, but I think they’re good enough to handle that.”
There is also good competition now amongst the players to become the leading goalscorer this season with Cotton, Scott and George Burton on six goals and Wabo one behind with five: “You can’t take anything away from Brandon because he’s scoring goals at the minute, and that’s what we need in the team.
“I thought George, when he came on, was really sharp and he looked like he was going to get us a couple of goals with a couple of chances that he made for himself and I think Nico had one of his better games today. His first half performance was one of his best; he was all around the pitch and, for someone that played 90 minutes on Thursday night, he was a credit to himself.”
The result means that Blues are now just six points off the top four positions in the league table and possess the potential to earn a place in the top Merit Division when the South East and South West Conferences merge at the end of January. Huzzey is delighted with the momentum the squad has now built up following five wins in the last seven matches.
“I honestly think we’ve hit a really good patch. This group of players has improved so much from the start of the season. Although we had some really good performances and results at that time, as an all-round team now we’re doing really well and we look really sharp,” he declared.
“We spoke before the game about really kicking on; the second-years want to try to stake a claim and get into the first-team and there are first-years that are saying that they want to play every week because they feel they’re good enough and it’s hard to say they’re not because they are.
“The group as a whole has evolved a lot from the first day of the season and the togetherness and how well they get on has been really good. I expect us to get into the top Merit Division. I expect us to win as many games as we can to make sure we do that, but the way the group has evolved has been really pleasing,” he proclaimed.