Blues downed against local rivals Leyton Orient.
Southend United U18s lost their 100% away record this season after conceding four second half goals in a 4-0 defeat at Leyton Orient in their latest Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference fixture.
Goals from Steven Alzate, Myles Judd, Christian Owusu and Josh Koroma inside the final 35 minutes on a miserably wet morning in east London gave the O’s a comprehensive victory and left Blues four points behind league leaders Luton Town, although it is the repeated drop in performance levels after half-time that will concern the club’s Academy staff the most.
Southend were unchanged from the eleven that defeated Barton Rovers 6-1 in the First Round of The FA Youth Cup with Renei Batlokwa, Sonny Coutts and Alex Clark all unavailable through injury. That meant Joe Mackenzie and Abdul Salami continued their burgeoning centre-half relationship whilst first-year scholars Ben Musselwhite and Lewis Gard had the opportunity to impress in midfield.
Playing downhill in the first half, Orient made the early running and could have taken the lead in the fifth minute when Aron Pollock rose to meet a back-post corner but saw his aerial effort diverted wide by the head of a team-mate. Four minutes later, the O’s defender planted another far post header from a corner into the side-netting as Southend struggled to cope with the hosts’ set-pieces.
In the 12th minute, Joe Mackenzie read the game brilliantly to get in front of a forward and meet a left-wing centre, snuffing out the danger at the near post. Moments later Owusu glanced a right-wing delivery across the face of goal from close range, and with just a quarter-of-an-hour on the clock, another dangerous Orient cross was headed against the top of his own crossbar by Mackenzie.
However, after riding out that torrent of attacks, Southend began to work their way into the game. Forwards Dan Walker and Norman Wabo both made themselves available for their team-mates, but a series of over-hit passes reduced their potency as they attempted to run the channels. Despite that, the industry of Joe Bedford and Musselwhite in midfield hinted at a brighter period for the visitors.
Full-back Elvis Bwomono read an attacker’s run well to put off his opponent at the back post, and on 27 minutes an unmarked header was directed over by an Orient forward, but Blues began to get hold of the ball and, shortly after the half-hour mark, Gard exchanged passes with Wabo before dragging a shot wide of the left-hand upright.
Southend continued to repel their third-placed hosts until the half-time interval, and it looked as though they might continue to offer an attacking threat when Tom Clifford burst down the left-hand side but failed to find a fluorescent yellow shirt with his cut-back in the 51st minute.
Four minutes later, Orient took the lead. They had already seen a right-footed strike drilled across the face of goal when a long ball forward was flicked on and skipper Salami’s clearing header dropped to Alzate. He made no mistake by firing clinically into the bottom left-hand corner of the net to put his team in front.
Salami then did well to slide in and push the ball out for a corner just before the hour after a forward had got goal-side of Bwomono but, from the ensuing flag-kick, a familiar routine caught the Shrimpers out as the left-wing delivery was sent to the back post, where Judd powered his header past Josh Bexon to make it 2-0.
Damani Dias replaced Gard, but Orient continued to pose problems for the Shrimpers and Bexon was forced to beat away a ferocious shot at his near post on 64 minutes. Despite that, Southend could be encouraged when a Harry Phillips free-kick was volleyed over by Wabo, who then turned provider to set up Walker, only for the in-form forward to smash over the crossbar from ten yards out.
Unfortunately, just as Southend believed they were building some momentum, Bedford was adjudged to have brought down an Orient forward in the penalty area and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Owusu stepped up to take the twelve-yarder and, although Bexon guessed correctly to push out his initial effort, the striker tucked away the rebound.
Still Southend pushed on, and Wabo saw a drilled shot turned around the post by goalkeeper Sam Sargent before Mackenzie’s prodded attempt from a Phillips corner was blocked on the goal-line. That gave the O’s the chance to complete the scoring on 83 minutes as an attacker got around Clifford and squared to Koroma, who slotted in the fourth goal of the morning.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon, Elvis Bwomono, Tom Clifford, Joe Bedford, Joe Mackenzie, Abdul Salami, Norman Wabo, Ben Musselwhite, Dan Walker, Harry Phillips, Lewis Gard (Damani Dias, 60).
Substitutes not used: Imani Matthews, Tom Ripsher.