Coach finds positives despite late defeat to Posh U18s.
Norman Wabo gave Blues an early lead at the Nene Park Academy, but a quickfire leveller from Jack Friend and Bradley Maslen-Jones’ injury-time winner consigned Southend to a sixth defeat in their past seven Football League Youth Alliance Merit League One matches.
“I’m quite positive about it,” reported Huzzey. “The defeat is hard to take, but we always say that there will be games that we lose that we will be positive about and the majority of things that we asked of the boys today, they put in place.”
“I’ve got 14 or 15 disappointed boys in that dressing room, and I wouldn’t have it any other way; however, hopefully when they’ve had some time to reflect on it, they’ll realise that the performance wasn’t that bad. They were in the game,” he added.
With just three matches remaining in the 2014/15 season, Huzzey was in a reflective mood as he considered the club’s policy of introducing schoolboys into the U18s set-up. U16s defender Tom Ripsher made his full debut having travelled to Exeter City with the squad seven days earlier, whilst U15s front-man Sewa Marah was a 78th minute substitute for Harry Phillips.
“We’ve not had many good results in this ‘winners section’ of the season due to different circumstances. Teams have been better than us - that’s probably the most important one - and we’ve had different players playing in the team, but we’re going to have things like that. We’ve had a lot of U16s step up. The result today has clouded our judgement on the performance,” the coach said.
“Before the game, we were talking about trying new things, because of the situation we’re in in the league. We’re not going to win the league, we’re not anywhere near winning it, so we have to develop for next year. The positives we got from the game were an U15 coming on the pitch at centre-forward who done very, very well, and a centre-half who played 90 minutes as an U16.
“Tom hasn’t played before and only got the nod an hour before kick-off and he did very, very well. They’re the positives, and they’re the things we want to try and get out of the next three games and the remainder of the season, so there wasn’t so much importance on the result.”
With home fixtures against Plymouth Argyle and Stevenage to come, as well as an away trip to Portsmouth that concludes the campaign, Blues will be without second-year scholars Brandon Scott, Daniel Matsuzaka, Jordan Williams and Nico Cotton. Huzzey confirmed that the situation will lead to further opportunities for the club’s youngsters.
“Brandon Scott is out on loan and Dan Matsuzaka is out on loan, but that’s perfect for what we want. We want to bring through the young boys. The difference this year from last year is that all our second-years have got something for next year, so they are all still here and we could give them minutes on the pitch but the way we like to go at the end of the year is to blood our U16s and make sure our first-years are playing week-in, week-out.
“That’s what we’re doing, and if results suffer because of that then that’s down to us as the management because we want to make sure that our first-years, by the time they get round to next year, have played regular games in the U18s and that they’re used to the tempo and the standard, and we also have to make sure that our U16s have played regularly in the U18s so that they know it as well. We’re achieving what we want to achieve.”
And, although he had seen the side beaten in the closing stages, Huzzey was able to conclude by listing a number of impressive performances from within his team: “I think Tom Ripsher, coming in at really short notice, learnt loads in the game."
"An example would be that, after about 60 minutes, he got a little bit too tight to the centre-forward, who was really strong and athletic and he got rolled, but he learnt from the mistake and got touch-tight and fully extended his arm so he couldn’t get rolled. Things like that, and him becoming more comfortable with the way we play, are really good.
“Joe Bedford played some really good passes out wide to get us in, and that’s what we asked of him; Freddie Gard showed a different side to his game by really working hard to regain possession, he intercepted loads and played some really clever passes whilst Norman Wabo was really powerful.
“There were some really good performances, and another would be James Macree, who wasn’t going to play because of his injury. We had a goalkeeper on loan from Tottenham, but he got injured in the warm-up so we had no option but to put James out. He said he’d do it and he was brilliant,” he declared.