Youth team coach thrilled with the character of his side following emphatic win against MK Dons.
Youth team coach Dave Huzzey praised the resilience of Southend United U18s after they bounced back from conceding an early goal to defeat Milton Keynes Dons 6-1.
In stark contrast to the Shrimpers, MK have been in poor form this season, but they showed few signs of that during a first-half performance that saw them take a tenth minute lead before conceding the advantage thanks to goals by Dan Walker, Abdul Salami and Joe Bedford.
“It was a weird first half. I thought they were better than us in the first half,” conceded Huzzey. “The biggest problem we had was that we tried playing like MK Dons and we tried having all the possession and doing all the neat, tidy passing, but the thing is that we’re not MK Dons; we’re Southend United and we’ve got our own philosophy, and we showed that in the second half.
“The first half performance was nowhere near it and, even though we came off 3-1 up, I can’t understand how we did that. We didn’t press well enough, we didn’t drop off well enough, but fair play to the boys because we came out in the second half having spoken about how we were going to play against them and we did that. It was a mixed game.
“The boys think about the winning run a lot, which they shouldn’t and they need to try and put it to the back of their minds because good performances are the most important thing, but fair play to them because they won’t lose. I’m not saying they won’t lose in the future, because they might do, but their mentality and their attitude is that they’re not going to lose today, and they’re not going to lose tomorrow, and they have that every day in training, so it’s no coincidence that on Saturdays they’re not losing.
“We were looking at last season’s results and the way it went, and I think we came from behind once in the whole season and that’s not good enough. A Southend team needs to be more resilient than that, and this team have got that. When they scored, Terry Baker, the fitness coach, said it was the first time we’d been behind and I wanted to see the reaction from the boys, and we certainly got that.
“We got it from Abdul who, for me, was at fault for the goal because he got the wrong side of his man, and suddenly it was a case that we weren’t going to lose this game and the resilience they showed then is the reason that they’re not losing games,” he claimed.
Walker would go on to complete his hat-trick after the interval with a further two goals, whilst winger Alex Clark came off the substitutes’ bench to score his first competitive goal for the club. Huzzey had words of encouragement for both individuals: “I’m very pleased,” he began when discussing Southend’s finishing in the match as a whole.
“We missed four clear-cut chances, which is a bit disappointing, but Dan Walker signed his scholarship this week, and there’s no-one on that pitch that deserved it more than him because of his performances and, more importantly, his work-rate and how hard he works every day in training. His finishing today was brilliant, and he didn’t get selfish towards the end and he teed up some of his team-mates.
“Alex came in and had a massive impact in pre-season. We lost Cameron John to Wolves and Alex came in, and it was a no-brainer really because he was superb. He played away at QPR and Fulham and he was one of the best players on the pitch, and both managers said that, so that’s a massive compliment for him.
“When he’s come in during the season he’s been as effective; he hasn’t had the goals he scored in pre-season but today he notched with one. He’s a really effective player, he’s really bright and he’s only a first-year. I think he’s got a really bright future.”
That final statement could be applied to a number of players in the teenage Blues squad, and Huzzey was keen to emphasise again the role that all the members of the collective will have during 2015/16. James Macree, Tom Ripsher, Ben Musselwhite and Imani Matthews made their first starts of the season, and all four were promoted by their coach.
“I have sounded like a broken record by speaking about how important the squad is when they weren’t getting a chance, but today was the perfect opportunity to put them in and that’s what we did. If you look at Tom Ripsher playing left-back as a right-footed centre-half, he did tremendously well,” Huzzey declared.
“If you look at Ben Musselwhite in the last two minutes of the game, he was blowing, but that was where he was working so hard for the team, and Imani Matthews came off at half-time for a tactical change, but I thought he was good and he worked really hard and he made sure that the full-back didn’t get on it when he was out of possession, so those three coming in, along with James Macree, just showed the depth we’ve got in the squad.
“He made some crucial saves at 1-1, and even at 0-0 he was positive and he made some good saves. The best thing about James is that he stayed in it throughout the game and even when we made it 5-1 or 6-1 he was still making really good saves, which is hard because it can be hard to stay concentrating and he did that, which was brilliant.
“But the most pleasing things for me were that Josh Bexon was not there because he was in the first-team squad – whether he made it onto the bench or not is irrelevant, he was in the first-team squad – Sonny Coutts has been playing for the U21s week-in, week-out and Dan Walker has signed his scholarship and is scoring goals,” he concluded.