Blues get revenge on Peterborough United at Boots & Laces
Southend United U18s went some way to exorcising the demons of their 7-0 defeat against Peterborough United earlier in the season by recording a hard-fought 3-1 victory against the same opposition in the reverse fixture at Boots & Laces.
Blues will continue to the use the memory of that occasion in Orton Longueville to spur them on during2014/15, but the squad will be delighted to have put in a much-improved display and shown Posh what they are capable of during an entertaining Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference encounter.
Freddie Gard opened the scoring for the hosts in the sixth minute and, although they continued to create chances, there was always the possibility that Peterborough might equalise until Nico Cotton’s 18-yard strike midway through the second half. Skipper Ross Johnson fired home with ten minutes remaining and, although Emmanuel Adeyeye was sent off and the visitors netted on 85 minutes, the result was assured.
Southend made two changes to the team following last weekend’s goalless draw at Northampton Town. Central defender Daniel Matsuzaka has joined Ryman League North Division pacesetters Harlow Town on a work experience loan, meaning that Abdul Salami returned from suspension to take his position in the team, whilst Brandon Scott was restored to the starting line-up in place of Norman Wabo.
Scott was to put in an excellent performance on the right flank, providing a constant outlet for his team-mates to pick out, and he played a part in the opening goal after just five minutes. Cutting in from the wing Scott threaded the ball into the path of Gard and, despite his initial effort being blocked by the goalkeeper, the second-year scholar continued his run to stab home on the half-volley.
It was an important statement of intent for Blues, but they could have conceded within seconds when a Peterborough break led to a forward sliding his shot across the face of goal. Then, after 13 minutes, Josh Bexon was required to tip a header from a corner onto the crossbar before Gard hacked the ball off his own goal-line.
Posh can be intimidating opponents, but Southend refused to back down and Scott’s 25-yard strike on 19minutes was deflected out for a corner. From Adeyeye’s flag-kick, the ball bounced up for Johnson in the penalty area, but he chipped over. Seconds later Burton epitomised his team’s work-rate, winning the ball off a defender on the bye-line and cutting it back to Macauley Keating, who saw his shot charged down.
The entertaining nature of the contest continued as Sonny Coutts got across to effect a perfectly-timed challenge on a Posh forward as he entered the penalty area at the other end whilst, after half-an-hour, Bexon again made an important save as he partially stopped a strong shot and Abdul Salami made sure the ball was cleared.
Southend did not over-commit bodies forward but, in the pace of Nico Cotton and Scott, they had a genuine threat whenever they could be found. Johnson managed to pick out Scott in the 38th minute, although another fierce long-range effort from the winger skidded inches wide of the right-hand post before Bexon turned a dangerous attempt away from the opposite goal in the final minute of the first half.
The hosts decided against any changes at half-time, although Peterborough did make a substitution in an attempt to freshen their play up. Instead it was the ever-industrious Burton who burrowed through midfield three minutes after the break to set up Keating for a wild strike off-target. Scott also fired wide, this time after a persistent run by Gard, as Blues looked to increase their lead.
At the other end, Posh were searching for a leveller. They had a good opportunity when the ball fell to an attacker on the edge of the six-yard box following a corner, but he blasted over and yet another dangerous centre in the 55th minute just eluded a forward at the back post.
If the visitors were threatening from set-pieces then the same could also be said of Southend, and Salami lost his composure when he shot over following Johnson’s successful challenge on the goalkeeper from an Adeyeye corner just after the hour mark. Then, on 65 minutes, Blues doubled their advantage as Scott retrievedCotton’s over-hit pass and sent in a cross that was only cleared as far as his fellow flanker, who rifled home.
The goal was a triumph for Southend’s determination, the result of their consistent work-rate and a never-say-die attitude that had been absent in that meeting earlier in the campaign. Now, once Keating’s 25-yard effort had flown inches wide of the left-hand upright, the focus turned to not giving their opponents a sniff of hope.
Blues did appear to be a little vulnerable when they sat back, and coach Dave Huzzey implored his team to get up the field after a shot was chipped against the crossbar from another set-piece. Gard led the charge in the 80th minute and, when he was crudely upended inside the ‘D’, that gave Scott the opportunity to shoot from the free-kick. The ball was blocked, but it ran into the path of Johnson, who made no mistake to make it 3-0.
Unfortunately Adeyeye, who had been cautioned for kicking the ball away early in the second half, was shown a second yellow card for his part in celebrating the goal, leaving Southend with some additional work to do in the final ten minutes. Half of that time had elapsed when a corner bounced around in the Blues box and a Peterborough attacker pounced to bundle the ball over the line and reduce the arrears to two goals.
However, after that finish, Southend ran down the clock with ease. Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel was handed a competitive U18s debut in place of Cotton, whilst Renei Batlokwa returned from injury to replace Scott. Norman Wabo was also given a cameo appearance as he came on for Burton, but Blues’ work was done and they were able to celebrate a well-earned win.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon, Jordan Williams, Emmanuel Adeyeye, Ross Johnson, Abdul Salami, SonnyCoutts, Brandon Scott (Renei Batlokwa, 90+1), Macauley Keating, George Burton (Norman Wabo, 90+4), Freddie Gard, Nico Cotton (Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel, 86).
Substitutes not used: James Macree, Joe Bedford.
Goals: Gard (7), Cotton (65), Johnson (80).