Youth team coach delighted with fantastic victory following Blues' U18s 8-0 win over Gillingham.
Southend United’s youth team coach Dave Huzzey believes Blues have set the benchmark for future performances with an 8-0 victory over Gillingham U18s at Beechings Cross on Saturday morning.
Blues led 1-0 at the break thanks to an own goal, but the teenage Shrimpers ran in a further seven unanswered goals during the second half, including four in a ten-minute spell at the end of the game, to kick-off 2015 in style.
“It was a brilliant way to start the New Year,” declared Huzzey. “I thought the performance was first-class right from the minute we arrived on the coach. The boys’ attitudes and the way they went about the game was brilliant and they got their just rewards in the end with the victory.”
Huzzey felt that, despite the side’s attacking freedom throughout the fixture, it was the defensive base given by their inexperienced centre-back partnership that proved instrumental in the triumph: “When we look back at the first half performance now, although I thought we were the better side by quite a way, they had chances to score as well,” he said.
“The wind was behind us and we missed too many chances. It was only 1-0 at half-time and I thought it might be one of those days. I warned the boys that Gillingham always have a goal in them so we had to be disciplined at the back, and I thought we were today.
“With the weather the way it was, and with the long balls that Gillingham put in at times, I thought Joe Mackenzie and Abdul Salami dealt with it so well. For two younger boys - a first-year scholar and an U16 at centre-half - they were top drawer and I’d share the man-of-the-match between them because I thought they were class.”
Having singled out that pairing, Huzzey continued to praise every member of the team at the end of a superb all-round performance in which George Burton, Joe Bedford and Renei Batlokwa contributed braces and Nico Cotton scored an eighth in injury-time to mark his 50th appearance for the youth team.
“At the start of the second half we hit them on the counter-attack. I thought that was a brilliant way to start the half, and from there we didn’t let off. Each time they got possession of the ball we won it back and our shape was really good.
“The core of the team with Josh Bexon and the two centre-halves at the base and also the two full-backs was good today, and that meant we could build on that going forwards, where the likes of Renei Batlokwa was class in stages.
“George Burton scored with a couple of great finishes, including a great free-kick, although he could’ve had more; Nico Cotton and Brandon Scott were a threat on the wing as they are all the time and then Freddie Gard and Joe Bedford were our machine. They kept the ball for fun, and it was another great performance from Fred and one that we all know he is capable of,” he added.
Having been beaten 7-0 at Peterborough United and 7-2 by Watford, Huzzey was delighted that Blues managed to register a substantial victory of their own, especially given the youthful nature of the line-up: “I think we’ve been on the other end of a few scorelines this season, so the boys deserve this, whoever it came against in the league.
“We never seem to get the same performance from this group, they’re always up and down whether that’s in training or in games, and today we’ve seen the height of their performance. They can’t be overwhelmed by this; they’ve set the standard for themselves. Now we go and play against one of the best teams in the league, Barnet, on Tuesday and we have to take this performance into that game.
“We were missing seven or eight players through injury or suspension and, in Daniel Matsuzaka’s case, being called into the first-team squad, so we’ve had to come with some younger ones in the squad, but it’s testament to the U16s and the work Steve King does with them that every time they are asked to step in, they do a job.
“Joe Mackenzie was different class today as an U16, Imani Matthews set up two goals and Damani Dias puts in a really good performance every time he steps into the youth team, and those three players, plus Tom Clifford and Cameron John - every U16 that has played in our youth team - has done extremely well.
“It’s testament to the U16s we've got at the club that we can take off Freddie Gard, who ran the game for us, and replace him with someone like Damani, who was able to do just as good a job at that stage of the game,” he concluded.