Huzzey happy to get back to winning ways at Stevenage.
Southend United’s youth team coach, Dave Huzzey, was delighted to see the U18s turn on the style in last weekend’s 3-0 victory away to Stevenage.
Full-back Tom Clifford, playmaker Harry Phillips and centre-half Abdul Salami contributed the game’s three goals during a 22-minute period either side of the half-time interval, and Huzzey hailed the win as confirmation that the Shrimpers squad were back to their very best.
“No disrespect to Stevenage, but I thought it was a very convincing result,” he claimed. “It was a convincing performance and, in the second half, I thought the game understanding and the way we controlled the game was brilliant. It’s unlike I’ve seen in a little while after the two games against Barnet and last week’s game against Luton, and I thought we controlled the game today really, really well.
“We’d talked about Dan Walker and Norman Wabo both playing well at the minute and scoring goals, so the key was to get those two on the pitch at the same time. We looked at some different structures and went with the diamond with Harry Phillips linking them both together. We tried it in a friendly against Norwich City in the week and it worked quite well, so we tried it again.
“I thought the boys, to be fair to them, adapted to the shape really well. It took 10 or 15 minutes to get used to it, and that’s normal, but we completely dominated the game because the boys stuck to their shape and stuck to what we’d spoken to them about on Thursday and Friday.”
The formation relied upon full-backs Clifford and Elvis Bwomono getting forward down either flank, but also being adept at dealing with the opposition attacking against them with little cover. Huzzey believed that both did an outstanding job at the Shephalbury Sports Centre.
“I’m really pleased with those two. We spoke about the diamond, and there’s loads of weaknesses with any shape, but we said that we have two full-backs that we think can cope with 1v1s all day long. Going forwards, they are always going to be an asset to us as well, and we sometimes don’t use them enough because they’re both very, very good players on the ball.
“Both could play in midfield areas, and they’ve shown that by bombing on. Elvis Bwomono got loads of entries into the final third and deliveries into the box, and Tom Clifford was exactly the same. Harry did pull out to his side, but the two full-backs are more than capable of coping with that formation and they proved that today,” he said.
Another feature of the performance, particularly during the opening period, was the pressing of Norman Wabo and Dan Walker up front. It was one such occasion, in the 26th minute, which led to Phillips scoring Blues’ second goal inside a minute, and Huzzey praised both strikers despite neither managing to get on the scoresheet.
“We’re a bit of a mixture of a pressing side and sometimes we like to sit off, but today I thought we pressed better than we’ve ever pressed before. Like any centre-forward, if they sniff danger they’ll run all day for you because they know they’re going to get something in the end, and Norman sniffed a bit of danger and chased the ball down, and a couple of times he nearly got there and then one he did when Harry finished.
“Because of the shape, we could afford to do that. If we lost Norman out of the game because they played around him, we still had Dan Walker and Harry Phillips in the diamond that they had to play through. I was really pleased with the way Norman sniffed a bit of danger and did that.
“Dan Walker worked ever so hard for the team, as always, but he didn’t get his just rewards today through scoring a goal. I’ve just said to him that the best centre-forwards have days like that, but then the next week they go and bag a couple of goals, and that’s what he’s got to do. He’s got to get his head back up, and I’m sure he’ll be fine.
With a two-goal cushion, Southend were able to express themselves after the half-time break, with Salami adding the third goal and the visitors then piling on the pressure in an excellent display. Huzzey was happy to see his side in such irrepressible form, and is looking forward to the challenges coming up.
“At half-time we went through three key points, and they achieved every point in the first 10-15 minutes. Both myself and Sonny Coutts said that they were going to put it on us for the first 15 minutes and we had to make sure we were brave. That was brilliant from Sonny. The boys knew in the first 10 minutes they could win the game, and they did it by putting the pressure on straight away.
“We went and won a corner and Abdul Salami, off Dan Walker, scored at the back post, and that was a great finish. From then onwards, we completely controlled the game. Sonny, coming back into the side, was instrumental; he looked like a senior player coming back into a youth team, which he should look like because he’s been with the U21s and had that experience. He rubbed off on all the others today.
“Cambridge will be a tough test for us. This result means nothing if we don’t perform when we go there. It’ll be interesting to see how the boys recover. It’s similar to a first-team where they’re getting that experience of playing Saturday-Tuesday and then another Saturday and then maybe another Tuesday coming up in The FA Youth Cup.
“It’ll be a tough couple of weeks for the boys, but this group - this squad, because the bench today had some very talented players on it in - have got it in them have got it in them to go out and win as many games as they can within the next few weeks,” he declared.