Maher believes the Blues deserved more from the game at home to the Cherries.
Assistant Academy Professional Development Phase Coach Kevin Maher felt Southend United U18s were unfortunate not to force Saturday’s Football League Youth Alliance Cup Third Round tie against AFC Bournemouth into a penalty shoot-out after a spirited second half performance.
Blues bowed out of the knockout competition at the last sixteen stage after allowing Ollie Harfield to score the game’s only goal in the 18th minute. The Cherries provided excellent opposition for Southend, but Maher – who took charge in the absence of youth team coach Dave Huzzey for the weekend – believed his squad adapted well.
“I thought it was a difficult game against a good, strong Bournemouth side who caused us problems in the first half,” he admitted. “We managed to stay in the game at times and we sorted it out at half-time. In the second half we coped much better and we looked like we might nick something but going down to ten men was obviously disappointing with Sonny Coutts’ injury.
“We changed the shape, and that solved a couple of the problems that they were causing us, and we looked to be on the front foot a lot more. We had a couple of opportunities; there was nothing too clear-cut but we were looking to take the game to them.
“With it being a cup game, we were losing and we had to chase it a little bit, but I think the boys put a great effort in in the second half, especially after we went down to ten men. If we’d’ve had eleven players on the pitch at the end, then possibly we might’ve nicked something, but you can’t fault their effort,” he declared.
The next assignment for the U18s is an FA Youth Cup game at Barton Rovers on Tuesday evening, and Maher concurred that having a knockout game just ahead of that First Round encounter was god preparation for the squad. He also considers the clash to have been a good experience ahead of the Merit League stage in the second half of the 2015/16 campaign.
“I think this sets us in good stead for Tuesday. It’s another knockout game, and we have one or two knocks, but we’ll go there looking forward to it and fully prepared for it. It’s going to be a tough game again, and one that we have to be right for,” said the former club captain.
“Josh Bexon had to make a couple of saves, and that’s what he’s there for, but he played well. They’re a good team and they caused us problems, and in the Merit League further on in the season we’re going to come up against that, hopefully. It’ll be something that we learn from, and hopefully we’ll get better at it, but the boys done themselves proud in the second half especially.
“As a collective we got to grips with things in the second half, and that’s something we’ll all learn from, and the way we assessed things and took that on will be good for the boys. Sonny is a big player for us, so we’ll assess his injury and see how he is. Fingers crossed it’s not too bad,” he concluded.