Young Blues' good form continues with victory over the Daggers.
Southend United U18s completed their third away win inside seven days as Dagenham & Redbridge were swept aside during a scintillating first-half performance.
Blues led 4-0 at the break, taking the lead through Sonny Coutts before a Norman Wabo brace and Dan Walker’s acrobatic volley took the two forwards’ respective scoring tallies to eleven for the 2015/16 campaign. Dagenham pulled two goals back after the interval, but Southend held on to record a 4-2 victory at Old Parkonians FC in Fairlop.
Southend made five changes to the team that had beaten Cambridge United 3-2 in midweek, with three of those coming in defence. Full-back Elvis Bwomono returned alongside centre-backs Abdul Salami and skipper Coutts, whilst Renei Batlokwa and Imani Matthews replaced Ben Musselwhite and Lewis Gard further forwards.
The visitors could have taken the lead within the opening sixty seconds. Matthews teased a defender on the left flank before crossing to the back post, where Wabo let out a yelp of frustration after volleying wide. Three minutes later fellow front-man Walker was holding his hands after glancing a pinpoint Tom Clifford free-kick wide of the left-hand upright.
It was clear from the opening skirmishes that Southend were posing plentiful problems from set-pieces and, on six minutes, Wabo headed wide from a Harry Phillips corner. Five minutes later, Joe Bedford fought hard for the ball in midfield and Matthews was unfortunate to be denied by a superb fingertip save by Daggers gloveman Tyler McCarthy.
Matthews then enjoyed another opportunity to open his goalscoring account this season, but he snatched at a shot when Phillips flicked on a searching Salami ball forwards after a quarter-of-an-hour. Dagenham did look dangerous when they attacked, and in the 16th minute Jordy Mongou drilled a near-post shot at Josh Bexon, but the custodian parried the ball to safety to keep the game goalless.
Two minutes later, Blues thought they had taken the lead when Salami rose imperiously to meet a Phillips flag-kick and headed goalwards. The ball looped over McCarthy, whose attempts to scoop the ball out were not successful. Defender Jimmy Nottage was covering on the goal-line, and he was adjudged to have just nodded the ball off the line before it had completely crossed the whitewash.
However, Salami was involved again on 21 minutes when Southend finally took the lead. Predictably the goal came from a set-piece as Phillips lofted the ball into the penalty area and the vice-captain nodded back to skipper Coutts, who was perfectly-positioned to head past McCarthy into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
Wabo scuffed a shot wide following a Phillips corner in the 25th minute, but he would not have to wait long before doubling Southend’s advantage. Matthews instigated the move with a superb left-wing run before sending a centre into the penalty area. Walker challenged for the ball, which dropped for Wabo to half-volley into the net with the aid of a sizeable deflection.
Five minutes later, Blues turned on the style again to make it 3-0. Phillips and Batlokwa exchanged passes in midfield before Phillips was able to hang up a cross to the far post, where Salami managed to divert the ball into the path of Walker. The former Southend Manor striker twisted his body acrobatically to spectacularly volley the ball into the net from twelve yards out.
Walker then set up Wabo, who fired narrowly over in the 39th minute before doubling his personal tally sixty seconds later. This time Tom Clifford’s left-wing run was rewarded as he picked out Wabo’s run and the marksman clinically smashed the ball beyond McCarthy to put Southend 4-0 up.
The initial stages of the second period hinted that the Shrimpers would add to their first-half tally. Matthews and Batlokwa combined to set up Phillips for a 20-yard shot into McCarthy’s gloves on 49 minutes, and seconds later Walker was put through by Batlokwa, only for Charlie Holmes to get across and deflect his shot out for a corner.
Dagenham pulled a goal back in the 52nd minute when Reeco Hackett-Fairchild delivered a shot from 15 yards out that squirmed through the hands of Bexon, but the moment that shaped the course of the final half-an-hour came when Clifford tussled with Eric Swonoca on the left touchline. Coutts was cautioned during the ensuing scrap, but Blues lost their focus and were unable to recover their composure.
Tottenham Hotspur loanee Joy Mukena replaced Coutts on the hour, but the Daggers were unlucky when Scott Mitchell nodded against the crossbar on 63 minutes. Southend almost restored their four-goal lead midway through the half, but Walker fired wide after Wabo cut the ball back into his path and then Walker smashed a shot at McCarthy having got the better of a defender.
Another Hackett-Fairchild strike cannoned off the outside of the right-hand post in the 69th minute but, despite Phillips forcing another save from McCarthy, Dagenham cut their arrears again twelve minutes from the end when the forward brilliantly turned the ball into the net from distance via the inside of the left-hand upright.
Blues finally began to slow the game down and take the sting out of Dagenham’s comeback late on, and Matthews was unfortunate not to grab a deserved goal when Holmes got across him at the far post to prevent him from converting Wabo’s cross. Wabo was then foiled in his attempts to complete a hat-trick when McCarthy saved following a jinking Clifford run, but Southend were still able to celebrate a 4-2 win.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon, Elvis Bwomono, Tom Clifford, Joe Bedford, Sonny Coutts (Joy Mukena, 61), Abdul Salami, Norman Wabo, Renei Batlokwa, Dan Walker (Damani Dias, 83), Harry Phillips (Lewis Gard, 79), Imani Matthews.
Substitutes not used: Ben Musselwhite, James Macree.
Goals: Coutts (21), Wabo (28, 40), Walker (33).