Blues continue perfect start in the league.
Southend United U18s maintained their 100% record this season as Leyton Orient became the third team to suffer defeat at Boots & Laces in the Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference.
Goals by Norman Wabo, Harry Phillips and Abdul Salami were enough to give Blues their third straight win of 2015/16, with Christian Owusu’s penalty providing a spirited Orient side with a late consolation for their endeavours. However, despite conceding, Southend will head to Northampton Town on Saturday in high spirits.
Academy Manager Ricky Duncan and youth team coach Dave Huzzey named an unchanged starting eleven for the visit of the O’s, which meant that Lewis Gard retained his place in the side ahead of Damani Dias. Striker Wabo was looking to add to the two goals that he netted against Stevenage at the weekend, and he was provided with a gift in just the second minute.
There didn’t appear to be any danger when the Orient goalkeeper received the ball back from a defender, but a combination of a slippery surface and the presence of the persistent Wabo led to a slip and the marksman gleefully accepted the opportunity to grab his third goal of the campaign by robbing the custodian and tapping into an empty net.
Having been handed the early advantage, Blues had to work hard to maintain their lead as an energetic, pressing performance from the visitors led to plentiful chances for Orient to get back into the game. A forward burst into the penalty area in the 12th minute, only for the advancing Josh Bexon to deny him by grabbing the ball at the second attempt, and two minutes later there were loud appeals for a penalty as Joe Bedford spread himself wide to block a fierce effort.
Southend had to be content with snapshots on the counter-attack, and in the 20th minute a beautifully-weighted Renei Batlokwa pass gave Wabo the chance to line-up a 25-yard strike that was deflected over by a defender. 12 minutes later, Alex Clark combined with Phillips to set up Bedford, but his long-range piledriver flew narrowly wide of the left-hand upright.
Winger Clark was also required to make an important sliding challenge in his own penalty area on the half-hour mark to preserve Southend’s lead, and the O’s continued to pose problems with a forward feeling that he should’ve been awarded a penalty after going to ground when tackled by Joe Mackenzie in the 37th minute.
Seconds later, Bexon dived to his left to thwart an Orient winger from equalising before immediately setting Wabo away with an enormous goal-kick. Despite initially getting the better of his marker, the former St Bonaventure’s schoolboy eventually had to settle for a corner, and Blues went in at the break with a slender one-goal lead.
The second period was similar to the first, even if the hosts did begin to look more confident in possession. Full-back Elvis Bwomono made a crucial glancing contact with a right-wing cross in the 51st minute to nod the ball away from a forward at the back post, and six minutes later some desperate defending saw the ball cleared to safety.
Just before the hour mark, Southend introduced Dan Walker in place of Wabo up front, and it proved to be a shrewd move as the tall forward played a key part in the second goal on 69 minutes. Walker flicked a Bexon goal-kick into the path of Batlokwa, and the playmaker unselfishly squared for Phillips, who contributed his first goal of the season by steering the ball beyond the goalkeeper.
Five minutes later, Blues led 3-0 as skipper Abdul Salami headed home his first U18s goal from eight yards out. The tall central defender was picked out by Clark, who delivered a pinpoint inswinging cross from the right touchline after his initial delivery had been cleared.
Orient battled back and refused to lie down, ultimately winning a spot-kick nine minutes from time when an attacker mesmerised both Bexon and Tom Clifford and the left-back was adjudged to have handled the ball as he sought to block the player’s path. Owusu stepped up to send Bexon the wrong way and net his fifth goal of the campaign.
Clifford had previously made an impressive block inside his own six-yard box, and there was further defending for Blues to do as Salami superbly slid across the turf to turn the ball out for a corner in the 85th minute. Three minutes later, a dangerously-positioned free-kick was curled wide and Bexon made another useful save in stoppage time to ensure that there were no late scares for the Blues.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon, Elvis Bwomono, Tom Clifford, Joe Bedford, Joe MacKenzie, Abdul Salami, Lewis Gard (Damani Dias, 79), Renei Batlokwa, Norman Wabo (Dan Walker, 58), Harry Phillips, Alex Clark.
Substitutes not used: James Macree, Imani Matthews, Ben Musselwhite.
Goals: Wabo (2), Phillips (69), Salami (74).