Youth coach happy with Southend United U18s' resilience in goalless Orient draw
Youth team coach Dave Huzzey was happy with his team’s defensive resilience as Southend United U18s kept a clean sheet in a goalless draw away to Leyton Orient on Saturday.
The Blues back-line, which featured goalkeeper James Macree and centre-half Sonny Coutts for the first time in 2015, held firm despite facing plenty of pressure from a Leyton Orient side that required a victory to give them a chance of qualifying for Merit League One when the Football League Youth Alliance’s South East and South West Conferences combine in February.
“In the first half both teams were really sloppy; we certainly were. It was stop-start and I don’t think the wind and the pitch helped,” reported Huzzey, “In the second half, it was a good, spirited performance. The boys showed unbelievable desire not to concede by throwing bodies in front of shots.
“We knew Leyton Orient needed to win today and they threw a lot forward, but we were a credit to ourselves today. We shouldn’t be too happy because we didn’t score and it was a 0-0 draw, but in the circumstances we were class, and it was great education for the boys.
“I don’t think we’d’ve drawn that game earlier in the season. The pitch wasn’t that bad, but it was bobbly and, with the weather as it was, the ball kept going out and the game was stopping and starting. There were lots of free-kicks, and we’d’ve lost that game because that’s not the way we like to play.
“The boys have to get used to that because sometimes in professional football you won’t be passing it about all the time; it will be stop-start and today was just like that with all the tackles going in. It meant something to Leyton Orient because they needed to score and it meant something to us as well because we wanted to stop them from getting into the top Merit League, and we shouldn’t hide that,” he added.
While Huzzey was pleased with the work that his team did defensively, he did feel that an improvement would be needed in the final third of the pitch in games to come, starting with Tuesday’s fixture against Watford and then continuing in Merit League One during the spring.
“In the first half there were forced errors from both teams. We had three or four regains in their final third that led to shots on goal after we’d pressed really well. The thing we’re getter better at compared to the start of the season is that we anticipate; we wait for a pass to go into feet and then we cheat a little bit and everyone is linking up together.
“From where we’ve come from, in terms of pressing, it’s been really good and today showed that when we nicked it three or four times in the first half, and in the second half we did the same. However, they did the same to us, and sometimes we were playing out in the wrong areas of the pitch.
“When Leyton Orient pressed really high, we started off playing to the next line but, when we played to the next midfielder, we got out a lot easier. Once they had to cope with that, we could play to our centre-halves, so I think the decision-making when playing out from the back and entering the middle third was good.
“However, our final third entries and the final ball in the penalty area were poor, and that’s disappointing because we could’ve won the game. We had chances to win the game in both the first and second half and, through poor choices or mistakes, we didn’t, and that’s something we’ll have to get better at.”
Despite not going on to claim all three points, Huzzey was able to watch his team keep a third clean sheet in four games, and he believes that was down to the commitment on show from the entire team: “One thing about this group is that you either get a really talented performance and not as much desire to keep a clean sheet, or you get a performance like today where you get real desire to do so,” he admitted.
“I will single out Sonny Coutts; he has run through a brick wall for the team, and you can’t ask for any more than that. The amount of times that he, or Dan Matsuzaka or Macauley Keating, blocked a shot or got in the way of something was top drawer.
“I had to apologise to the subs that didn‘t get on the pitch because, every time I went to put one of the boys on, I couldn’t because the person I was going to take off was still affecting the game. Even when I brought George Burton off, he was still affecting the game, and luckily Norman did the same. It was really hard to make any changes, and that’s a credit to them.
“James Macree made some very good saves and that will do wonders for his confidence. He hasn’t played for a long while, so it must’ve been a bit nerve-wracking to be chucked in, but he coped with it really well, and I was really pleased with his performance. He made some great saves but, more importantly for me, when playing out he was really good. His all-round game was very good today,” Huzzey concluded.