Youth team coach Dave Huzzey could not hide his frustration and disappointment even though Southend United U18s claimed a late draw at Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday morning.
Blues took the lead after just 13 minutes when Norman Wabo converted Nico Cotton’s corner, but they fell behind as the Daggers scored either side of the half-time interval. However, substitute George Burton stepped up to convert an 89th-minute free-kick to secure a 2-2 draw at Old Parkonians FC.
Despite his side’s late rally, Huzzey believed it was a case of two points lost rather than one point gained: “They had chances to win it, as we did, but we’re really frustrated. We came here last year and lost 4-2, and my feelings now are on a similar level to those I felt after that performance. We can’t handle how different teams play at the moment, and we particularly struggle against Dagenham.”
“They don’t play like anyone else we come across in the league. We need to play against teams like that more often because we’re alright when we come up against teams like Cambridge last week when they give us a bit of respect and let us play and we can punish them, but Dagenham got right in our faces, stopped us playing and then we had to go a little bit longer, and we weren’t very good at that. It was a massive learning curve,” he said.
Southend had made the perfect start thanks to Wabo’s early strike, but there were further chances for the visitors to score with Emmanuel Adeyeye, Brandon Scott and Harry Phillips all spurning opportunities as well as Wabo, who saw a half-volley cannon back off the crossbar on the stroke of half-time. Huzzey admitted that his team needed to make the most of those chances when they were on top.
“I think we were fine in the first 20 minutes, but then Dagenham sensed a weakness and got in our faces. They stopped us playing, didn’t give us any time on the ball and credit to them for that, but we’re good enough to find an alternative rather than stop playing completely, which is what we did today.”
“A couple of boys talked about the quality of the pitch, but there’s no excuse there; if you’re good enough, you’re able to play on anything, that’s my motto. I know we’re good enough, and that’s why this performance was so bad,” he claimed.
“When Dagenham went 2-1 up, I think there was a positive reaction. They did come back out and the boys knew it wasn’t good enough if they wanted to try and win the game. The problem lies in us making silly little mistakes. Sonny [Coutts] is gutted about the penalty, but I’ve told him that he’s made four or five tackles where they would’ve been one-on-one if he hadn’t and he’s stopped them, so he’s got to realise that he has helped us out in other aspects.”
“Yes, he needs to be lighter on his feet in the box and more aware of where he is, but he will work that out. The reaction was due to the reality that we could lose the game. The boys knew that they had to pick it up, but they should’ve been doing that from the first minute of the game.”
“We had spells where we’re unbelievable, like in the first 20 minutes when we scored one goal and should’ve scored two or three, and we missed some great chances with Manny one-on-one and Norman hitting the crossbar, Brandon with his right foot and Harry Phillips when he was unmarked in the box and he fell over, so we’ve had the chances to win the game, which is frustrating,” he added.
Huzzey also paid tribute to injured midfielder Harry Norman, who is a long-term absentee from the side. The former Leyton Orient schemer has remained in constant contact with the staff and his fellow players, and the coach felt that this match emphasised what the team are missing without his presence.
“Harry has been a massive loss to us from the first game to now and today, more than any other game, there’s a massive realisation that Harry is a player who doesn’t just break the play up, but also gets us playing. It’s shown how much we’ve missed him, and it’s a credit to him before his injury that it was so massively evident today.”
“In the middle of the park, we didn’t have anyone that would go and win the ball and then look after it once they’d got it. Ross Johnson did well in there in previous games, but we pushed him back to right-back with Jordan [Williams] picking up an injury in training on Thursday, and we really miss Harry in games like this when the chips are down and the opposition are in your face.”
“Harry stands up and gets in their faces. I think it would’ve been a completely different game with him on the pitch. We tried playing Freddie as a number 4 today, and he can play as a 4 and I think he will do again this season, but you then miss him as a number 10 and that adds to the frustration,” he concluded.