Youngsters suffer third consecutive defeat, but coach sees positives.
Youth team coach Dave Huzzey felt that there were positives to take from Saturday’s narrow 2-1 loss to Football League Youth Alliance Merit League One leaders Plymouth Argyle U18s at Boots & Laces.
Southend were defeated for the third consecutive time, despite skipper Ross Johnson giving them a 21st minute lead, as Argyle netted twice before the half-time interval to claim their sixth victory from nine Merit League fixtures. Blues have now lost six of their nine games in the second phase of the season, winning two and drawing one with two matches left to play.
“It was another tight one,” said Huzzey. “Plymouth had a game-plan, and that was what we had been looking at all week. We knew what to expect; they were quite direct, well-organised and they made it hard for us. We played at their tempo for the first 15 or 20 minutes until we scored, which was a little bit against the run of play.
“Once we scored, we slowed the game down and played at our tempo; our players got more touches on the ball rather than just flick-ons and we actually controlled a little bit of the game, but we went in at half-time 2-1 down, and this is what has cost us all season and is continuing to cost us.”
As well as the timing of what proved to be Plymouth’s winning goal, coming just sixty seconds before the break, Huzzey was keen to emphasise that individual errors remain a blemish on the team’s performances. On this occasion it was experienced duo Emmanuel Adeyeye and Johnson that were caught out.
“We’re making mistakes, and how many times do we make the opposition earn a goal because of good football or good play? For the first one Manny got beaten at the back post, and the one thing about our boys is that they’re man enough to come and speak to us straight after the game, and that’s what Manny did today, and I can only respect that. If that has helped him with his game, then hopefully that’s a positive.
“It was a mistake, Manny has got narrowed off and the boy has got in behind him at the back and nodded it back across the goal, and then we haven’t tracked the runner coming in and they’ve scored the first, and then, for the second one, Ross Johnson has taken too long on the ball and the boy’s nicked it off him, then we’ve fouled him and it was a good finish from the free-kick, but it’s two goals that really disappoint me because we could’ve prevented them,” remarked Huzzey.
Even though Blues were dealt that blow leading up to half-time, Huzzey was pleased with the determination shown by the squad after the interval in managing to remain in contention, although he bemoaned the lack of opportunities created by the hosts.
“Our plan was to go out after half-time and stay in the game. Too many times we’ve gone out and conceded the next goal and the game’s dead after 10 minutes, and fair play to the boys, that’s what they did for 10-15 minutes of the second half. They were in the game. The problem was that, although Plymouth weren’t creating much to score, neither were we,” he admitted.
“It was another game, a bit like Peterborough, where it was all played in the midfield. We tried a couple of things, we tried freshening things up top, but it didn’t quite work for us to get in and score. We needed to be a little bit more positive, maybe, in the final third, and a little bit more direct, but we stayed in it and played against a team that are top of our league and are very well-organised.”
Huzzey ended on a positive note by mentioning the continual development of the club’s young players. Schoolboys Elvis Bwomono and Damani Dias started the game, with Cameron John and Imani Matthews introduced late in the fixture. Tom Ripsher was an unused substitute and Tom Clifford, who appeared earlier in the campaign at Cambridge United, almost featured as well.
“I think that’s probably the brightest note,” he claimed. “We had six schoolboys involved in the youth team with two starting and two coming on, and then in the U16s we had two U14s and eight U15s, so the one thing that this Merit League has done for us is it has brought the younger players through.
“I’m not trying to get away from the fact that we’ve lost the game, but if you look at the U16 players that have played in our youth team, near-enough every single scholar we have taken on for next year has played, and started, in our youth team this year. We don’t normally have that many, so the future is bright and we are looking forward, but it’s just disappointing that we keep making mistakes that cost us goals.”