A 4-1 victory over Cambridge United marked another improvement in the performance of Southend United U18s in the opinion of youth team coach Dave Huzzey.
Blues bounced back, not just from back-to-back defeats against AFC Wimbledon and Milton Keynes Dons, but from conceding the game’s opening goal in the final minute of the first half to score four times after the break with Norman Wabo, Brandon Scott, Nico Cotton and Sonny Coutts all getting their names on the scoresheet.
Huzzey felt that the post-interval goal-glut could have come at any time in the match: “I think we were good enough in the first half to win the game, but in the second half we had a little bit more belief and desire to go out and score,” he said.
“We spoke a lot at half-time about trying to play a little bit quicker because we had kept lots of possession in our own half but then breaking into the second third took us a little while. We felt if we moved it a little bit faster we might be able to get in and that’s what we did.”
“It was important that we did that; we were still patient on the ball, but the difference was moving it a little bit quicker in order to get in behind their defence. As soon as we scored, the game changed completely because Cambridge had to come at us, and then they had come at us again after the second goal to try and get something, so I thought we might score a few more.”
Southend’s footballing philosophy is to pass the ball, but Huzzey admitted that the team modified their approach in order to gain success in this fixture, remaining protective of the ball at the back but with a slightly more direct emphasis contributing to the first three Blues goals.
“Because we had loads of possession and we kept trying to play through, they were setting up so that it was packed in the midfield area and it was hard to play through. We told the boys to still be patient, but as we were making 5 or 6 passes, we should keep looking for the one in behind because it might get there,” he revealed.
“A lot of the time we had Brandon or Nico 1v1 on their full-backs, so we told Sonny and Dan [Matsuzaka] at half-time that, if it is on, just to play the ball and see what happens. Because we had quite a bit of success with it, they got a bit excited and kept doing it, so we had to calm them down and tell them to wait for the right time, but they got it spot on in the end.”
The only negative aspect of the day for Huzzey was seeing his team fall behind just before the break, and the coach conceded that it this regular occurrence needs addressing ahead of their upcoming encounters: I think the first half performance was good, but obviously going 1-0 down just before half-time hurt us a little bit with our game-plan,” he reported.
“More importantly, with them sitting behind the ball, it gave them something to grab onto but, in the second half, we played extremely well and put in one of our best performances of the season so far.”
“We had all the possession, and I thought if we kept it 0-0 until half-time we could break them down because they’d have to come out a little bit more to try and nick something, and then we could exploit the space that they would give us.”
“Cambridge scoring meant they could carry on sitting a bit deeper and letting us have possession of the ball in areas where we were not hurting them as much as we would like to. It gave them a little bit of a cushion. Maybe it’s our concentration in the last five minutes before we go in, but it’s definitely something we’re going to have to speak about to try and stop it happening,” he added.
“Overall, I’m really pleased. We’ve had a week off, just playing the U16s last weekend, and I think we needed that so we could come back refreshed. It was a great performance and result today, and hopefully we’ll now be confident going into the Dagenham & Redbridge game next week.”