Dave Huzzey reacts to Southend United U18s' 3-0 win at Barnet in the Youth Alliance League.
Southend United U18s coach Dave Huzzey believes that Tuesday’s 3-0 victory at Barnet is another indicator of how far the squad have come since the start of the season.
First half strikes from George Burton and Joe Bedford put Blues in control early on before a late Norman Wabo effort sealed the three points against the Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference table-toppers at The Hive. The win was Southend’s third in a row and their ninth in the last 13 outings in all competitions, leaving Huzzey delighted.
“It was a really good performance,” he beamed. “After going 2-0 up, like we did earlier on in the season, it was really important to see how far we had come as a team. I think we have proved how far we have come, and it was a good statement to make.
“When there was 15 to 20 minutes to go and they were coming back into the game again, I thought that it would be a test and we’d see how much we’d learnt from what happened before, so to go and get another goal and kill the game off was really good. I’m really pleased for the boys,” he added, referencing the Boots & Laces meeting in September when the Bees fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2.
Blues also met the north London outfit in The FA Youth Cup, triumphing 1-0 at Roots Hall in the Second Round, and Huzzey felt that all three fixtures followed a similar pattern “I think the games between ourselves and Barnet have been the same every time we’ve played them,” he confirmed.
“In the first half we gave as good as we got and really put the pressure on by creating chances to score. Although Barnet had a few chances, I think we had the better chances to go and maybe get a third in the first half, but then when we went back out the pressure came from Barnet because, as I’ve said before, they’re one of the best teams in our league.
“They came at us, but we held them off, like we did in the FA Youth Cup game, with the difference being that we had a bit more quality in the second half this time. When we did hold them off, the balls we put back in created a few chances and it wasn’t as one-sided. I felt we were going to nick one before the end, and we did, so that was really pleasing."
Blues made two changes to the team that defeated Gillingham 8-0 four days previously, with second-year scholars Daniel Matsuzaka and Ross Johnson restored to the side, and Huzzey revealed that both he and Academy Manager Ricky Duncan have absolute faith in the players whoever they select.
“Our form is a testament to the squad that we’ve got here. The U16s that stepped up on Saturday - Joe Mackenzie, Damani Dias and Imani Matthews - all dropped out and big Dan Matsuzaka came back in. Sometimes players can come back after being with the pros with a bad mindset, but there was no chance of that happening with Dan and he was class today.
“It was also a big game from Ross because he was sent off against this team in The FA Youth Cup and he did well and held everything together. Rick and I have trust in all the players, and that has showed in the last two games with the amount of times we’ve changed things. They’ve shown why we trust them, because they’ve put in some brilliant performances,” he said.
Southend made a sharp start to the match with Burton and Bedford netting within the opening 12 minutes, and Huzzey was pleased with the pair: “George and Nico have been on the free-kicks and Nico took one at Gillingham and missed, so George took the next one and scored, and he’s done exactly the same today. He’s got a great strike on him and, to be fair to him, he does do it in training. He practices them and he’s getting his just rewards now.
“One thing that has lacked a little bit in Joe’s game was goals, and he’s got three in the last two games, which is good, and he’s also put in two really good performances. I’ve been really impressed with Joe both at Gillingham and then again at The Hive.”
There could have been more goals before Wabo’s late effort, with playmaker Freddie Gard unfortunate not to cap another impressive display with one of his own: “We’re always going on at Fred about scoring more goals. A lot of people compare him to Jack Payne and Jack Bridge, but one thing they did was score more than Fred does.
“I don’t think Fred will be an out-and-out goalscorer, but his all-round game means he is better defensively and he can contribute. He does need to score more, and if you asked him about the two chances he had today, he’d tell you himself that both should’ve resulted in goals, but his contribution all round the pitch both Saturday and today has been class,” remarked Huzzey.
Blues have also worked hard on their defensive base in recent weeks, and their endeavours were rewarded with a second clean sheet against Barnet this season, with the Bees having scored in every other match they have played this term: “The clean sheets are probably the most pleasing thing about the two games. We’ve had two good wins, and even at 8-0 against Gillingham we didn’t want to concede because we didn’t deserve to.
“Today, against a team that must score in almost every game they play because their attacking play is so brilliant and they put so much pressure on, we defended really well again. This team is good enough to compete against the best, as we did today. The boys have worked really hard recently; Rick and I had them in over the festive period and that hard work is really starting to pay off,” he concluded.