Southend United U18s came close to toppling table-topping Barnet, but two goals in the closing stages from the visitors cancelled out earlier efforts by Emmanuel Adeyeye and Norman Wabo.
Full-back Adeyeye ignited the game with a stunning strike on 51 minutes before Wabo’s third goal of the season nine minutes later doubled Southend’s advantage. However, Shane Cojocarel gave the Bees hope eight minutes from the end with a superb solo goal and substitute Elliott Harris completed the comeback deep into stoppage time to make it 2-2.
Blues made three changes to their starting line-up with fit-again Jordan Williams taking the place of injury victim Joe Bedford and George Burton, scorer of the late equaliser at Dagenham & Redbridge seven days earlier, replacing Harry Phillips. Josh Bexon came in for James Macree in goal.
Southend immediately continued the momentum that they had gained in the latter stages of the Dagenham fixture as they created the opening opportunity in just the second minute. Wabo burst into the penalty area and cut back for Nico Cotton, who stroked the ball just the wrong side of the right-hand upright.
Four minutes later Cotton was culpable again as he was picked out by an excellent Jordan Williams cross and he slotted his shot wide. Williams and winger Brandon Scott were constantly testing the Barnet back-line, but the visitors repelled most threats and began to probe themselves without forcing custodian Bexon into action.
Midway through the opening period Freddie Gard, again deployed in a more defensive central midfield role, advanced towards goal before sending a rasping 25-yard attempt straight into the goalkeeper’s gloves. Blues were not keeping hold of the ball long enough to threaten consistently, but defensively the team was strong with Daniel Matsuzaka and Sonny Coutts snuffing out any Barnet attacks with ease.
There was a distinct lack of goalmouth action as the half drew to a close with a smattering of bookings, but that changed within six minutes of the restart when Adeyeye put Blues ahead. The second-year scholar, who travelled with the first-team to Cheltenham Town recently, brought the ball out of his own half and assessed his options before dispatching a 25-yard shot into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Bexon made a smart save besides his left-hand upright as Barnet sought a quick equaliser, but instead the visitors fell further behind on the hour mark when Wabo scored his third goal is as many matches. Ross Johnson won a throw and, when the ball was worked to Williams, his pass was met by the darting run of Wabo, who beat the offside trap to roll a shot confidently underneath the goalkeeper.
The goal galvanised Southend, but it also sparked the Bees into life. Coutts was cautioned as he desperately attempted to stop an attack in the 67th minute and, five minutes later, Bexon made a brilliant save to push a close-range shot around the left-hand post.
Barnet, who had scored 29 goals in their first eight games of the season, were piling on the pressure and Abdul Salami was brought on for Nico Cotton in an attempt to shore up the defence just a minute after a glancing header had flown across the face of goal. Soon afterwards Adeyeye nodded a header from a corner off the goal-line, but Barnet were on the verge of pulling a goal back.
Cojocarel was the eventual goalscorer after an impressive mazy dribble. He managed to jink his way beyond two Blues defenders before bearing down on Bexon’s goal, and a strong shot was pushed into the bottom right-hand corner as the gloveman tried in vain to maintain his clean sheet.
Barnet were not finished. They continued to push Southend back and Williams was forced to head another aerial effort off the goal-line from one of four successive corners at the end of the regulation ninety minutes. However, in the fourth minute of injury time, the Bees levelled as a short free-kick found Harris and he arrowed his finish into the bottom left-hand corner of the net to leave Bexon with no chance.
Amazingly, in an exciting conclusion to a pulsating half, Southend could have snatched victory two minutes later when Wabo and Scott fought for a hanging Williams cross at the far post, but the delivery was marginally over-hit and the ball drifted out for a goal-kick. That was the final action of the game and Blues were left to reflect on a second successive 2-2 draw.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon, Jordan Williams, Emmanuel Adeyeye, Freddie Gard, Sonny Coutts, Daniel Matsuzaka, Brandon Scott, Ross Johnson, Norman Wabo, Nico Cotton (Abdul Salami, 80), George Burton (Damani Dias, 69). Substitutes not used: James Macree, Harry Phillips.