Youth team coach delighted as Blues march on to take on Blackburn Rovers in Youth Cup.
Youth team coach Dave Huzzey cut a happy figure after seeing Southend United U18s rally to record a 2-1 extra time win over Newport County at Rodney Parade.
Blues sealed a place in the Third Round and a trip to Ewood Park to take on FA Premier Academy League outfit Blackburn Rovers in December after goals from Norman Wabo and Harry Phillips earned them a hard-fought victory. The performance left Huzzey ecstatic: “I’m delighted for the boys,” he declared.
“It’s nothing short of what they deserve tonight and I think everyone that has been here to witness it will agree. We went 1-0 down against the run of play, I think, and the experience of playing in a stadium and everything made it hard and inspired Newport to fight hard and sit behind the ball.
“But I’m delighted with the boys’ spirit and their desire and their passion and everything that sometimes we doubt about this group given the second half performances that we put in sometimes. Tonight they have shown those qualities in abundance,” he added.
Huzzey believed the encounter had a real knockout flavour to it, and he paid tribute to the way that opponents Newport organised themselves and defended stoutly to keep Blues at bay for long periods of the game.
“Although we’ve watched two or three games of theirs and we got reports, we came here not knowing much about them because we hadn’t played against them, and they had exactly the same with us. It was a proper FA Cup tie,” he explained.
“There were two styles, and that’s nothing against Newport because it pitted our footballing style against their more direct style, and normally we struggle a little bit against direct teams, but I thought we grew as the game went on. We got a little bit nervous after going 1-0 down, but the boys’ spirit and desire was top class.
“At half-time we went in 1-0 down, but I felt we were the better side. When we spoke to them in the changing room, we told them not to panic and we were positive with them. The fact that we had gone 1-0 down worried them slightly, and there was a 10-minute spell when we were a bit shaky but, other than that, we wanted them to go out in the second half and carry on doing what we were doing.
“We wanted the boys to move the ball a little bit better, because I thought we were trying to plug holes that were blocked up, and I thought we had to move it side to side and change their shape. I thought we did that in the second half and we got our just rewards.
“We felt that after we scored the first one, we could then go on and win the game in normal time but it didn’t happen that way, and fair play to Newport because the reason it didn’t happen was because they put up a real good fight against us. After we scored the goal to make it 1-1, you thought we would have the momentum to go on and kill them off, but they battled and worked to make sure nothing got past them,” he added.
Playmaker Phillips has now scored five goals in The FA Youth Cup this season, but none have been as important as the 103rd minute penalty that he stroked home to ultimately win the match for his team. Huzzey praised the second-year scholar’s character before taking time to congratulate everyone involved with the squad and focussing on the upcoming plot to beat Blackburn.
“When it went to extra time, fair play to our boys because it was a kick in the teeth for them that they didn’t win it in normal time, but we went out there for another 30 minutes, and I think we dominated that 30 minutes and got the goal that we needed. If Harry had missed that, then the pressure would’ve built and we might’ve found it hard to go and score again.
“Everybody knows how good Harry Phillips is technically, but tonight he has shown how good he is mentally and physically because he’s a slight kid. People say he’s small, but he’s not small in spirit or physical attributes. Tonight he proved that he’s got everything that you could want and he needs to keep bringing that to the table.
“But I think it needs to be said that from the top, from Rick, who works so hard to make sure that this Academy works from U9s to U18s, to Kevin Maher, who has been absolutely brilliant for me to work with having played over 500 games for the club and Terry Baker, and Amy and Cam and everyone, this is a real group achievement.
“You have James Macree, who has been brilliant and an absolute credit to himself and his family in the way that he reacts to every game and works in every training session; you have Tom Ripsher, who as a first-year has found it hard because he hasn’t played many minutes but is completely behind the cause and what we’re doing and will have a brilliant season next year.
“You have Perry Hirst, who has come in and hasn’t played many minutes in league games, but he has been a credit to himself and his attitude is spot-on; Daman Dias and Imani Matthews came on and affected the game with their attitude and professionalism and their ability, and Montel Brown gets a special mention being an U16.
“Montel only got called up to the squad last night due to someone else getting injured, and he was prepared to have a day off school and travel all the way across to Wales on a Wednesday afternoon and he didn’t play one minute today, but he has the experience and he still came off with a smile on his face.
“We will look forward to Blackburn, and the boys are maybe already looking forward to it because they’re already talking about it, but we’re not happy with just getting to the Third Round. We’re not going for the experience, or to make the numbers up; we’re going to win the game, and we will prepare the boys to do that because I think they’re good enough to do that,” he concluded.