Blues march into round two of the FA Youth Cup following win over Barton Rovers.
Southend United U18s moved into the Second Round of The FA Youth Cup with a 6-1 victory and a professional performance at non-league Barton Rovers.
Six different players made their way onto the scoresheet for the Shrimpers, who led 5-1 at the half-time interval and added an injury-time sixth through substitute Damani Dias, Centre-backs Abdul Salami and Joe Mackenzie scored the first two goals before strikers Dan Walker and Norman Wabo stretched the lead. Harry Phillips also netted after Rio D’Silva had scored a superb consolation for the hosts.
There were three changes to the Southend starting line-up after the narrow defeat to AFC Bournemouth in the Football League Youth Alliance Cup at the weekend. Mackenzie replaced loanee Joy Mukena in defence, whilst Ben Musselwhite and Phillips were restored to the midfield. Wabo moved out to the right-hand side in a 4-3-3 formation.
Blues had struck the woodwork twice before finally taking the lead in the ninth minute. With Tom Clifford having smashed a fourth-minute free-kick into the side-netting, Phillips released Wabo moments later and he sent a skidding shot against the base of the right-hand upright. Then, in the eighth minute, Phillips himself was thwarted as his well-struck effort was tipped onto the top of the crossbar by Ethan Wallbank.
From the ensuing corner, Southend went in front. Phillips delivered the ball short to Joe Bedford on the apex of the penalty area and the midfielder swung the ball to the back post, where stand-in skipper Salami rose imperiously to power his header into the back of the net.
Within three minutes, Blues had doubled their advantage. Again the goal came from a Phillips set-piece with his delivery from the opposite left-hand side being dropped by Wallbank under some pressure from Wabo. Centre-back partner Mackenzie was on hand to stab the ball through a crowded penalty area into the bottom right-hand corner of the net,
Walker could have grabbed a third in the 16th minute when he raced on to a flicked Phillips pass, but he was denied by defender Ryan Neufville getting across quickly to tackle. Three minutes later, the tall centre-forward was celebrating his 12th competitive goal of the season as he picked up the ball 30 yards out and advanced unchallenged before driving his shot beyond the despairing dive of Wallbank,
Southend were fully in control by this point, and they made it 4-0 after 25 minutes when Wabo equalled his strike-partner’s goal tally courtesy of an assist from Walker. The former Southend Manor front man accurately delivered a cross onto the chest of Wabo, who controlled the ball before tucking home confidently from ten yards out.
Within seconds, Phillips could have added a fifth, but he directed a free-kick over from 20 yards out whilst Walker was unfortunate not to double his personal tally when Wabo returned the compliment with a beautiful reverse pass that required an outstanding block from centre-back Keith Mensah to prevent the forward from converting.
That moment quickly heralded Barton’s best spell of the game and, in the 33rd minute, they reduced their arrears with a stunning finish by D’Silva. It looked initially as though the danger might be averted when Josh Bexon palmed out Tyler Ingham’s shot, but substitute Jon Kanati squared the ball for D’Silva to rifle an unstoppable finish into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Elvis Bwomono then did well to cut out an Ingham centre from the right flank, but Blues were soon back in the ascendancy and Phillips restored the four-goal advantage with a clinical finish. The second-year playmaker sprung the offside trap to latch onto a precise Wabo pass and drill the ball beneath Wallbank from ten yards out.
It remained 5-1 at the break, when the Blues management staff resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes. The visitors started the second half well, with Wabo drawing a fine near-post stop from Wallbank before Bedford sent a long-range attempt wide with the outside of his right foot, but the display lacked the intensity of the first half.
Barton carved out a couple more opportunities as the match approached its final quarter, with D’Silva flashing a shot across the face of goal before Bexon saved easily from Keiren Reid. Howver, the introduction of Dias changed the game again in Southend’s favour, and he almost netted with his second touch as he curled just past the right-hand post from the edge of the penalty area.
Lewis Gard’s industry inside the area helped to earn Walker a chance to score again, but the striker poked marginally the wrong side of the upright after flummoxing the defence with a Cruyff turn. Instead it was left to Dias to add the late gloss to the scoreline, rounding Wallbank from Bexon’s booming goal-kick before angling his finish into the roof of the net from an acute angle.
Southend will now travel to Football League Youth Alliance South West Conference side Newport County after the Welsh outfit edged past non-league Sholing on penalties following a goalless two hours on the south coast. The Second Round tie must be played on or before Saturday 21st November.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon, Elvis Bwomono, Tom Clifford, Joe Bedford, Abdul Salami, Joe Mackenzie, Norman Wabo (Imani Matthews, 71), Ben Musselwhite (Damani Dias, 66), Dan Walker, Harry Phillips, Lewis Gard.
Substitutes not used: James Macree, Tom Ripsher.