Blues make it eight wins on the spin after victory against Peterborough United.
Southend United U18s continued their remarkable start to the 2015/16 season with an eighth consecutive victory as Peterborough United were defeated 3-1 at the Mick George Training Academy.
Blues fell behind in the 26th minute, but forward Norman Wabo – restored to the starting line-up in place of Dan Walker – cancelled that goal out with a stunning strike seven minutes before the break. Wabo then grabbed his sixth goal of the campaign in the 57th minute to nudge the visitors ahead before Harry Phillips celebrated his 18th birthday with the third shortly after the hour mark.
Youth team coach Dave Huzzey made three changes in total to the starting line-up from the previous weekend’s narrow victory over Gillingham. Fit-again Renei Batlokwa was brought in to replace Ben Musselwhite in midfield whilst Damani Dias stepped in for Alex Clark out wide in addition to Wabo’s return, and Blues started well on a sunny morning in Orton Longueville.
Phillips won a corner as early as the fifth minute and, when his flag-kick was nodded out, Joe Bedford sliced wide from the edge of the penalty area. Sixty seconds later, the Shrimpers should have taken the lead when Dias teased the ball in from the right touchline and Lewis Gard found himself unmarked at the back post. The midfielder was denied a half-volleyed first U18s goal by a fine save by the Posh goalkeeper.
With Bedford an important pivot in midfield, Southend continued to control possession in the opening quarter-of-an-hour, but the chances dried up and Peterborough slowly became more confident. Josh Bexon made a couple of comfortable saves from long-range shots before, in the 17th minute, his mis-hit clearance dropped to an attacker and required him to make a scrambling stop.
The hosts grew in confidence and, just as Milton Keynes Dons had a fortnight earlier, took the lead when Blues lost the ball in midfield and it was worked out to the right flank. A cross was sent fizzing into the penalty box and a forward got to the ball first to force it past Bexon from close range.
Going behind jolted Southend into action, and Wabo attempted to haul his side level within two minutes when he received the ball on the edge of the penalty area and jinked past a couple of defenders before dragging his shot wide of the left-hand upright.
Ten minutes later, the former Westward Boys youngster was more clinical. Batlokwa worked hard for possession in midfield and managed to stab the ball into the feet of Wabo, who held off a defender before dispatching a powerful shot beyond the goalkeeper to make it 1-1.
With Southend stepping up their intensity, that was how the score remained at the interval, and within a minute of the restart Batlokwa had gone close to establishing a lead. Phillips found the playmaker with a delightfully-weighted pass, but Batlokwa could only dink his shot from 15 yards out narrowly off-target. Five minutes later, Batlokwa and Gard set up Phillips, who drove an attempt inches over the crossbar.
Blues finally gained an advantage for the first time in the 57th minute. Wabo was the goalscorer, on this occasion timing his run to perfection to get his head to a Damani Dias cross delivered from the right bye-line. The close-range effort sparked a team celebration that again showcased the squad’s togetherness.
Wabo could have completed a 22-minute hat-trick, but found himself thwarted by a goalkeeper’s save after curling the ball goalwards from a long goal-kick. Instead, the teenage Shrimpers had to wait until the 63rd minute to move 3-1 up following a superb team move. Bedford was the instigator, releasing Gard down the inside-right channel, and his square pass was side-footed home by Phillips from four yards out.
Musselwhite and Tom Ripsher were introduced as substitutes, and the latter almost set up a third for Wabo in the 78th minute, but his excellent work down the right went unrewarded when his cut-back rolled through the forward’s legs, and Wabo was also unable to convert when Joe Bedford swung a cross in from the right-hand apex of the penalty area and his header was directed straight at the goalkeeper.
There was another taste of U18s football for U15s midfielder Keith Asare ten minutes from the end of the game and, although Blues possessed a comfortable lead, that did not mean that Peterborough had given up. Bexon made a fine near-post save by palming a driven shot into the side-netting in the 88th minute, and Bedford nodded a header off the goal-line from the ensuing corner.
However, there was no route back for Posh, and no stopping Southend from maintaining their 100% record at the top of the Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference. Indeed, Blues and Bradford City are now the only two clubs in the entire Youth Alliance to have won all their league games this season, a record the Shrimpers will be hoping to keep up next weekend at home to Barnet.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon, Elvis Bwomono, Tom Clifford, Joe Bedford, Joe Mackenzie, Abdul Salami, Lewis Gard (Keith Asare, 80), Renei Batlokwa (Ben Musselwhite, 68), Norman Wabo, Harry Phillips, Damani Dias (Tom Ripsher, 73).
Substitute not used: James Macree.
Goals: Wabo (38, 57), Phillips (63).