Wabo brace makes it a perfect opening two games for young Blues.
Forward Norman Wabo netted his first goals of the season as Southend United claimed a second successive win by defeating Stevenage 2-0 at Boots & Laces.
Wabo put Blues in front after just 14 minutes with a clinical finish before adding a second courtesy of an opportunistic strike in the 69th minute to ensure that the hosts backed up last week’s 3-1 triumph over Dagenham & Redbridge with another victory to maintain their 100% record.
Southend made just one change to the team that had overcome the Daggers as first-year midfielder Lewis Gard - so impressive during the second half of that clash - replaced counterpart Damani Dias. Dan Walker returned to the bench, and he would make his first appearance of the campaign as a late substitute.
On a beautiful morning in south-east Essex visitors Stevenage made the better start, pinning Blues onto the back foot during the early exchanges. Southend initially had to curb their forward-thinking instincts to protect Josh Bexon’s goal, although the custodian had just one, comfortable, save to make in the first ten minutes.
That allowed Wabo to give Southend the lead shortly ahead of the quarter-hour mark. Bexon began the move, throwing the ball out quickly to Joe Bedford on the right touchline, and the midfielder kept up the pace of the move by swiftly picking out the arcing run of his team-mate with a tremendous swinging pass. Wabo sprung the offside trap and held off a defender before drilling a shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
Boro were incensed, believing that Wabo had strayed offside when he latched onto Bedford’s pass, although initially their frustrations were directed positively with Blues captain Abdul Salami making an important sliding block before Bexon gathered a 20-yard strike into his chest. The goalkeeper also did well to clutch hold of another effort from the edge of the penalty area at the mid-point of the opening period.
However, the visitors were fortunate not to fall further behind when Alex Clark was fouled and Harry Phillips curled the free-kick against the crossbar after 20 minutes, and a scrappy spell ensued as they attempted to disrupt Southend’s play. A number of fouls were committed and the referee was required to speak to both benches in an attempt to bring a modicum of calm to the occasion.
Blues recovered their composure quickest, and Phillips was again frustrated not to score when right-back Elvis Bwomono chipped Clark’s cross to the back post and the playmaker nodded wide of the target from close range. Phillips was then thwarted by the woodwork for a second time five minutes before the break, smashing his shot against the angle of right-hand post and bar from a Wabo pass.
When the ball bounced back into play, Clark fizzed his attempt across the face of goal, and the winger went similarly close to claiming his first goal for the club three minutes later when put clear by Wabo, finding on this occasion that the faintest touch from the goalkeeper sent his strike inches over.
With some impressive late defending from Salami and Joe Mackenzie, Southend maintained their lead at the half-time interval, and they were soon on top in the second period with Wabo forcing the visiting goalkeeper to palm his fierce shot out after a quick throw in the 48th minute.
There was a nervous moment five minutes later when a good move by Stevenage led to a forward slotting the ball beyond an advancing Bexon at his near post, but Salami had read the situation superbly and was positioned on the goal-line to clear. Shortly afterwards, Bexon made an outstanding save, diving full length to his right to claw away a back post header and divert the ball around the left-hand upright.
In between, a flowing move at the opposite end culminated in Tom Clifford squaring the ball to Gard ten yards out, but his effort was directed at the goalkeeper. However, on 69 minutes, Southend did double their advantage after Clark had been brought down on the right flank. Clark delivered the free-kick to the back post, when Salami nodded down and Wabo reacted quickest to the loose ball to smash it into the roof of the net.
Blues impressed during the closing stages with Phillips and Joe Bedford in particular combining well and allowing the likes of Gard, Clark and Wabo to express themselves. There were few chances at either end, despite Walker and Dias being sent on for the Shrimpers, but Southend gained a hard-fought victory that sets them up well for the visit of Leyton Orient on Tuesday afternoon.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon, Elvis Bwomono, Tom Clifford, Joe Bedford, Joe MacKenzie, Abdul Salami, Lewis Gard, Renei Batlokwa, Norman Wabo (Damani Dias, 90+2), Harry Phillips, Alex Clark (Dan Walker, 77). Substitutes not used: James Macree, Imani Matthews, Ben Musselwhite.
Goals: Wabo (14, 69).