Phillips hat-trick helps Blues progress to take on Newport County.
Southend United U18s set up an FA Youth Cup Second Round tie away to Newport County after defeating Barton Rovers 9-1 in a replayed First Round fixture at Sharpenhoe Road.
Blues returned to Bedfordshire after The FA ordered the tie to be replayed due to a technical irregularity, and they eased past their spirited Eastern Junior Alliance opponents courtesy of a hat-trick from playmaker Harry Phillips and braces from forward pair Dan Walker and Norman Wabo, all of which were bookended by efforts from Renei Batlokwa and Damani Dias.
Academy Manager Ricky Duncan and youth team coach Dave Huzzey made one change to the starting line-up from the weekend victory over Northampton Town, selecting second-year striker Wabo ahead of the less-experienced Dias as part of the front three. Batlokwa was handed his second start in five days after returning from injury.
With the benefit of the slope in the opening period, Southend could have been expected to replicate the fast start that they had made on their last visit to Sharpenhoe Road, but instead it was hosts Barton who threatened first when Pat McCafferty glanced Rio Da Silva’s free-kick wide of the left-hand upright in the third minute.
Walker responded for the Shrimpers, galloping down the left wing in the fifth minute to force goalkeeper Ethan Wallbank to gather his low centre under pressure from Batlokwa before delivering the first shot of target of the encounter two minutes later when sending a driven effort into the custodian’s gloves having collected Tom Clifford’s pass.
Batlokwa also warmed Wallbank’s gloves with a 25-yard effort, but Rovers had made an enterprising start of their own and were unfortunate to see Da Silva’s free-kick fly over the crossbar before captain Harry Dudmish sent a bouncing strike into the gloves of Josh Bexon, who was making his 50th youth team appearance for Blues.
Southend took the lead at the mid-point of the first half with a goal of real quality. Wabo worked hard to win possession from Ben Thornton in the Barton penalty area, and he then had the presence of mind to roll the ball back to full-back Elvis Bwomono. He swung an accurate cross into the penalty area and Batlokwa rose brilliantly to head the Shrimpers in front.
Within four minutes it was 2-0. This time Ben Musselwhite was the instigator in midfield, picking out the run of overlapping left-back Tom Clifford. The first-year scholar touched the ball inside to Phillips who, remembering team-mate Walker’s success in the original meeting, unleashed a 25-yard strike that Wallbank could only palm into the net.
Five minutes later the skilful midfielder started and finished a move that saw Blues stretch their lead to three goals. Phillips picked up the ball around 35 yards from goal and found Wabo with an exquisite chip. The forward then moved play on to Bwomono, who cut the ball back from the bye-line for Phillips to tap home.
Batlokwa should have added a fourth goal in eleven minutes shortly after, but he slotted Walker’s pass wide of the post from just three yards out, and Blues were instead served a warning that Barton had not lost hope when Tyler Ingham managed to get in behind Abdul Salami and Bexon had to hare off of his goal-line to clear.
However, with virtually the final kick of the opening period, Walker netted again to confirm the visitors’ dominance. Again, the build-up play was spell-binding as Batlokwa and Phillips exchanged quick-fire passes before the former centred the ball for the in-form front-man to tap in from ten yards out.
Blues had been challenged to improve their second half showings from recent weeks and, after Bexon had made an excellent one-handed save to turn away Brandon McIntosh’s 47th-minute volley, they proved up to the task. Clifford fired wide from a Walker pass just sixty seconds later, but it would not be long before Blues were celebrating a fifth goal.
Southend’s strike-force have almost been matching each other goal for goal in recent weeks, so it was no surprise when Wabo popped up to contribute his first of the evening in the 54th minute. Joe Bedford spread the play with an outstanding pass to Batlokwa on the right-hand side, and his right-wing centre left Wabo with an easy back-post finish.
Three minutes later Phillips was celebrating his hat-trick as Southend made it 6-0 inside an hour of play. Marauding defender Bwomono made up ground down the right before drawing a foul from a defender as he entered the penalty area, and Phillips then stepped up to send Wallbank the wrong way and complete his evening’s work.
Shotstopper Wallbank did make a superb point-blank save to keep out Wabo’s volley from a Joe Bedford cross, and the hardworking hosts were rewarded with a goal of their own in 65th minute. Substitute Jordan Boyce-Fuller floated a right-wing cross to the back post and Bexon was only able to push Keiran Reid’s header inside the upright.
It took just sixty seconds for Blues to restore their six-goal advantage as Walker bagged his 15th competitive goal of the campaign. The tall front-man took a long right-wing pass in his stride and then clinically arrowed his shot into the bottom left-hand corner to make it 7-1.
Wabo fired wide from an almost identical position following another fine Bwomono through-ball, but he wasn’t to be denied a brace of his own when he netted the eighth Southend goal ten minutes from time. Tom Ripsher brought the ball confidently out of defence before finding Walker, and his pass was controlled by Wabo, who steadied himself before rounding Wallbank and slotting into an empty net.
Walker was the width of the woodwork away from scoring a third goal when he flicked up and volleyed against the top of the right-hand post from the edge of the penalty area, before he unselfishly left Dias with the honour of completing the scoring by rounding off a wonderful team move three minutes from the end. A trip to Newport awaits, with the date due to be confirmed soon.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon, Elvis Bwomono, Tom Clifford, Joe Bedford, Abdul Salami, Joe Mackenzie (Tom Ripsher, 64), Norman Wabo, Ben Musselwhite, Dan Walker, Renei Batlokwa (Damani Dias, 55), Harry Phillips (Lewis Gard, 61).
Substitutes not used: James Macree, Imani Matthews.
Goals: Batlokwa (22), Phillips (26, 31, 57 pen), Walker (45+1, 66), Wabo (54, 80), Dias (87).