Youth team coach finds reasons to be cheerful despite defeat to Luton Town.
A defiant Dave Huzzey refused to be downcast after watching Southend United U18s lose 2-1 at home to title rivals Luton Town in their latest Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference fixture.
Dan Walker gave Blues the lead on the hour against the league leaders, but goals by Kavan Cotter and Freddie Hinds, the latter arriving just four minutes from the end of the game, ensured that Luton left Boots & Laces with a 2-1 victory and a four-point advantage at the top of the Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference.
Despite the defeat, Huzzey was proud of his squad: “I’m disappointed with the result, but I’m over the moon that the boys were involved in a proper game. They were up against Luton, who are a very strong side in our category. They are on a par with us; I don’t think anyone would disagree that we’re the best two teams in the league and that showed today,” he claimed.
“It was a really competitive game. For the neutral, I expect everyone enjoyed watching it and I think our boys will have learnt a lot from it because of the competitiveness of the game and how close it was, and how close it was to being involved in a League One or League Two game.”
The youth team coach also felt that the experience of going head-to-head against a difficult side would stand his squad in good stead for the challenges ahead, not only in the remainder of the 2015/16 season but in the professional careers that he hopes will follow for the teenagers.
“For us, the week was all about preparing the same way as we did for Barnet last week, or for Northampton Town a few weeks ago. It was exactly the same. We prepared the team to firstly go and win but, more importantly, to go out and improve. We didn’t win but I think these boys, on their journey from being a scholar to becoming a professional footballer, overcame a massive mountain,” Huzzey stated.
“They gained experience of playing against a big, physical side that are very well organised and played the game like a first-team would play it and, in their journey, they will have to overcome that every day to become a professional footballer. To get that now is brilliant for the boys.
“I was saying to Brian Horton that that was probably the most second years we’ve had start a game this season, which is a big thing. We left Lewis Gard out simply because of the way we were playing in the first half and, although we lost the game, the performance was OK. It wasn’t the best we’ve had, but it was OK and we were dealing with a very good side.”
Huzzey was happy that his side improved as the fixture went on, even if that improvement did not result in a victory, with the 25-year-old insisting that Blues remain title challengers. He has already set his focus on upcoming challenges away to Stevenage & Dagenham & Redbridge after a fascinating recent triumvirate of home fixtures.
“In the first half I was really disappointed with the boys’ quality. We had a game-plan, and we stuck to that, and I think in the last 25 minutes of the first half we got better, but we still didn’t play to a tempo and with the quality or the amount of passes that we normally play with, and that was disappointing,” he admitted.
“In the second half we seemed to relax a lot more in possession, have early pictures of play before receiving the ball and we linked play through the thirds as our philosophy says, so we started to put our stamp on the game. However, the game was so open that, when it was 1-1, both coaches looked at each other and said that it was going to go either way.
“It wasn’t going to end like that because there were chances at either end, and I think that’s just youth football if I’m honest. Both coaches probably could’ve shored everything up, but we think we’re better than Luton and Luton, I’m sure, think they’re better than us, so we both went out to win the game, and that’s what made for a brilliant game.
“I am frustrated, and the boys are disappointed with the result, but it isn’t finished today. The season didn’t finish today, and whoever won the game today it didn’t mean they would win the league. We’re not even halfway through this phase of the season, and there’s still a long way to go.
“We’ve got a couple of away games coming up, and they’re different tests, which is good. I think the last three games we’ve had at home – two against Barnet and one against Luton – have been really good tests, and that’s what we want for this team.
“We think we’ve got the best team in the league in that changing-room, and we want them to be tested every week against sides like Barnet and Luton who are big, physical sides who know the game and organise well. Today was good, and now we go away to face different tests like Stevenage and Dagenham, so that’s brilliant for the boys’ progression,” he concluded.