Blues' Youth Team end honours even with Dagenham.Southend United U18s 1-1 Dagenham & Redbridge U18s; EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference; Boots & Laces; Saturday 20th August 2016; Kick-Off 10:30am
By Robert Craven
Southend United U18s were forced to settle for a draw against Dagenham & Redbridge at Boots & Laces after failing to make the most of their opportunities to score late in the game.
Lewis Gard’s second goal of the 2016/17 gave Blues the lead six minutes before half-time, but a Joe White equaliser for the visitors on the stroke of the interval levelled the scoreline and, despite both teams hitting the woodwork during the ninety minutes, the deadlock could not be broken in the third EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference fixture of the campaign.
Southend made two changes of personnel to the team that had slipped to a 3-0 defeat against Stevenage. Yonis Farah made his first start of the campaign at left-back, with Tom Clifford moving into midfield instead of schoolboy Jon Benton. Harry Cuthbert edged further forwards, whilst Eren Kinali was restored to the starting line-up in place of Dru Yearwood.
At a blustery Boots & Laces, Blues were out of the blocks quickly, and a sublime Gard reverse pass on the edge of the penalty area almost released Kinali in the third minute. Goalkeeper Dan Jezeph anticipated the ball to avert the danger, and two minutes later he had to race out of his penalty area to clear from the toecaps of Sewa Marah following a lofted Clifford pass.
Skipper Elvis Bwomono darted into the Dagenham half in the seventh minute after exchanging a one-two with Cuthbert, but his 30-yard attempt was drilled into a defender, and the game remained in its infancy when Jezeph again stabbed the ball away from Marah after Keiron Walker-Browne’s back-pass had been seized upon by the powerful forward.
Shortly after a quarter-of-an-hour had been played, Gard almost latched onto a Damani Dias through-ball as Southend continued to try to get the ball in behind the Daggers defence, and Dias himself then went close to opening the scoring after cutting in from the left flank as his thunderous strike rattled the crossbar and bounced away to safety at the halfway stage of the first half.
Blues custodian Nathan Bishop had nothing to do in the first 24 minutes of the match, and his first act was to scoop up a tame White shot, but the hosts began to lose their impetus and it was not until the 37th minute that another marauding Bwomono run brought about a driven attempt into Jezeph’s gloves.
However, two minutes later, Southend were celebrating taking the lead. Dias was upended 30 yards out and, when Clifford’s initial set-piece was adjudged to have been blocked by the arm of a defender in the wall, Gard was given the opportunity to curl the ball beautifully around the wall and into the top left-hand corner of the net.
Unfortunately, instead of proving to be the chance for Blues to push on, the hosts appeared anxious and, with the half-time whistle just seconds away, they were punished as Dagenham restored parity. Tyrique Hyde found White with a pinpoint pass and the forward’s skidding shot managed to elude Bishop to nestle in the net.
Marah, who had netted twice in the season-opening 5-0 victory over AFC Wimbledon, spurned an opportunity to add to his tally when his downward header from a near-post Clifford corner bounced the wrong side of the right-hand post, and Daggers fired a warning that they had designs on winning the game when full-back David Agboola hit the crossbar in the 51st minute with a speculative effort.
Youth team coach Dave Huzzey introduced schoolboy Emile Acquah for his U18s debut on the hour, the tall attacker replacing Kinali, but Dagenham continued to pose problems at the other end of the pitch and White glanced a header over from Harvey Browne’s right-wing cross on 64 minutes before Bishop made an important stop, denying Hyde after he had been put clear down the inside-left channel.
Marah and Farah combined on the left-hand side as play immediately switched to the opposite end, but Dias couldn’t get a shot away and Gard’s effort to restore Southend’s lead was saved by Jezeph. Despite that, it was Dagenham who appeared more likely to score and Hyde swung a long-range shot wide of the left-hand upright in the 76th minute.
That preceded a dramatic final ten minutes in which Southend found their feet and went for a winner. Dias won an 80th minute corner, which Clifford delivered for Mackenzie at the back post, but his attempt was blocked. Two minutes later, Cuthbert’s effort from the edge of the penalty box was deflected out for a corner and, from another Clifford flag-kick, Taylor Curran nodded agonisingly wide of the near post.
From the goal-kick, Dias seized possession and set-up Acquah, who was denied a debut goal when Jack Lee managed to get back to clear off the goal-line. Still Southend pushed forwards and, in stoppage time, they almost snatched victory, but Cuthbert smashed a dipping half-volley marginally over from Dias’ knock-down and the game finished 1-1.
Southend United U18s: Nathan Bishop, Elvis Bwomono, Yonis Farah, Tom Clifford, Joe Mackenzie, Taylor Curran, Damani Dias, Harry Cuthbert, Sewa Marah, Lewis Gard, Eren Kinali (Emile Acquah, 61). Substitutes not used: Harry Seaden, Dru Yearwood, Zak Pianim, Jon Benton.
Goals: Gard (39).
Cautioned: Mackenzie (73, foul tackle), Marah (86, foul tackle), Clifford (88, foul tackle).