Read the report from Westleigh Park as Southend United U21's took on Portsmouth U21's...Portsmouth 2-1 Southend United; Premier League Cup First Qualifying Round; Westleigh Park; Monday 22nd August 2016; Kick-Off 7:00pm
By Robert Craven
Southend United were knocked out of the Premier League Cup at the first qualifying round stage as a brace from Portsmouth’s Conor Chaplin consigned Blues to a 2-1 defeat at Havant & Waterlooville’s Westleigh Park.
Category Three Academies have to win two qualifying fixtures to force their way into the group stages of the revamped competition, which operates on an U23 basis with three overage outfield players and an overage goalkeeper permitted to be used. Unfortunately, despite Daniel Matsuzaka netting a close-range header three-quarters of the way into the game, Blues could not get back on level terms to force extra time.
Portsmouth, who had initially controlled possession before openings for the visitors, took the lead against the run of play. Adam May shifted the ball out to Chaplin on the right-hand apex of the penalty area and he sent an unstoppable strike into the top left-hand corner of the net to leave Ted Smith with no chance.
That goal gave the hosts confidence, and Chaplin almost doubled the advantage within two minutes when he glanced a Gareth Evans cross marginally over the crossbar. Harry Phillips charged down a clearance which Trialist lashed wide at the other end, but Chaplin was a menacing presence and he guided the ball all the way across the face of goal in the 20th minute as Pompey stepped up their performance.
Blues responded, and Phillips saw a fierce effort charged down inside the six-yard box by Kyle McDowell after Cotton and Trialist had combined on the left flank before the hosts threatened again, this time with Chaplin setting up May, who brought a parried stop from Smith ahead of a deflected Chaplin effort that drifted wide of the right-hand post.
On the half-hour mark, Southend could have levelled. Trialist’s industrious work saw him first pressurise goalkeeper Liam O’Brien into a mistake and then roll the ball into the path of the supporting Joe Bedford, who beat the custodian with his side-footed 20-yard attempt but looked on in anguish as Saidy raced back to hook the ball off the goal-line.
Smith ensured Southend were still in touch at half-time when he beat away an Adam Buxton effort, and the visitors made a good start to the second period when Kyprianou made progress to the left bye-line and squared the ball for Trialist, who couldn’t swivel his body sufficiently to turn home at the near post.
Evans failed to test Smith with a tame shot in the 51st minute, and Williams snatched at a left-footed effort just seconds later at the other end from a Kyprianou cross, but the defining moment arrived twelve minutes into the second half when O’Brien made an outstanding fingertip save to simultaneously divert Trialist’s angled attempt around the post.
From the resultant corner, Portsmouth broke away through winger Ben Tollitt, and he hared away from the Shrimpers defence before passing to Chaplin, who added the second goal with a simple but confident finish beneath Smith. Blues were frustrated, and Cotton was cautioned for a late tackle on Buxton before being replaced by Norman Wabo on 65 minutes.
With 23 minutes remaining, Blues were handed a lifeline as captain Matsuzaka halved the arrears. Southend were awarded a free-kick on the right-hand side and Phillips sent a measured cross to the far post, where the tall centre-half rose highest to power home a header from six yards out.
There were chances at both ends inside the final twenty minutes as the match took on a real cup tie feel. Evans glanced a header wide on 71 minutes for the home side before solid defensive work from Matsuzaka saw him force the same player wide at the expense of a corner. Evans then rolled the ball into the path of Ben Close, but he was thwarted by Trialist’s brave block.
Southend retorted with Wabo finding Bedford and the stylish midfielder’s slide-rule pass was stabbed into the grateful gloves of O’Brien by Batlokwa on 77 minutes, Chaplin was in search of a hat-trick at the other end, and a cheeky lob couldn’t catch out the back-pedalling Smith, who made a brilliant fingertip save at full-stretch before punching out a well-struck Chaplin free-kick.
The England U20 international was not finished there, and he denied Evans at point-blank range from a Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain cross in the 83rd minute. That galvanised Blues, and Phillips sent in another set-piece that O’Brien punched to safety.
Southend were the team on top as they earned a series of free-kicks late on, but they couldn’t find an equaliser to prolong their period in the Premier League Cup, with Trialist going closest to a leveller two minutes from the end. He looked set to burst the net at the back post after bringing down a high cross, but he was denied by Evans, who threw himself at the ball to deflect it over and protect Pompey’s lead.
Southend United: Ted Smith, Jordan Williams, Harry Kyprianou, Trialist, Daniel Matsuzaka, Joe Bedford, Renei Batlokwa, Trialist, Trialist, Nico Cotton (Norman Wabo, 65), Harry Phillips. Substitutes not used: Josh Bexon, Dan Walker, Elvis Bwomono, Tom Clifford.
Goal: Matsuzaka (67).
Cautioned: Cotton (63, foul tackle).