Blues' Youth Team fall to defeat.Stevenage U18s 3-0 Southend United U18s; EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference; Shephalbury Sports Academy; Saturday 13th August 2016; Kick-Off 11:00am
By Robert Craven
Southend United’s winning start to the EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference season was brought to an end by Stevenage on Saturday as the hosts ran out 3-0 victors at the Shephalbury Sports Academy.
Blues came up against a well-organised Stevenage side and struggled at times to impose their game on their opponents, who took the lead late in the opening period through Macsen Fraser. Zak Guerfi added a second just before half-time and, despite an improved second period from the visitors, Micky Cregan netted a late penalty kick to make it 3-0.
Dave Huzzey made one change to the team that had defeated AFC Wimbledon 5-0 at Boots & Laces in their inaugural fixture of the campaign with Dru Yearwood replacing Eren Kinali in the starting line-up. That meant a second successive start for schoolboy Jon Benton, who had marked his debut seven days previously with a goal.
Stevenage started the game well, but it was Southend who delivered the first shot of the match in the third minute when left-back Tom Clifford collected a misplaced pass 30 yards from goal and drove his long-range effort narrowly wide of the right-hand upright. Despite Boro’s possession, in the initial stages they were thwarted by a Blues back-line that maintained their shape to protect Nathan Bishop’s goal.
In the ninth minute, a Stevenage forwarded attempted an acrobatic bicycle kick from a free-kick, but the ball was directed wide of the left-hand post and Blues began to grow into the game. Sewa Marah dropped deep to pick up the ball and link-up play with the midfield, and after a quarter-of-an-hour Lewis Gard marginally failed to pick out Yearwood with a cross to the back post.
First-year centre-back Taylor Curran made an important block to keep the scoreline goalless in the 20th minute but, fourteen minutes later, the homesters took the lead after an impressive left-wing run led to skipper Elvis Bwomono being beaten and a cross being hung up to the far post, where Fraser met the ball sweetly with an unstoppable volley into the top left-hand corner of the net.
Two minutes later a rasping attempt from just inside the penalty area also beat Bishop, but fortunately for Blues the ball clipped the top of the crossbar and flew over, and that allowed Southend to test the Stevenage goalkeeper a few moments later. Benton drilled the ball into the box and Bwomono and Joe Mackenzie helped it into the path of Marah, who was bravely denied by the custodian.
A couple of minutes before the interval, Boro doubled their advantage. Bishop make a good initial save to parry out a strong near- post strike, and Curran helped the ball partially clear, but unfortunately for the visitors it dropped for Guerfi to clatter his shot into the goal and make Huzzey’s half-time team-talk a little more difficult.
The youth team coach rallied his teenage charges, and they responded with a blistering start to the second period. On 48 minutes, Damani Dias darted in from the left flank to beat two defenders and set up Marah, who was crowded out as he attempted to add to his brace against Wimbledon. The ball ran loose to Benton on the edge of the penalty area, but he could only find the goalkeeper’s gloves with his clean strike.
Within seconds, Gard had found Yearwood on the right-hand side of the penalty area, but he saw his shot blocked after cutting back onto his left foot, and in the 50th minute playmaker Gard sent a cross-field pass into the path of Dias, who likewise saw his effort charged down. With those opportunities not taken, Huzzey made a double-substitution with Benton and Yearwood replaced by Zak Pianim and Kinali just ahead of the hour mark.
Southend also changed their formation to accommodate the switches, and Bwomono moved out to the right wing-back role, from where he crossed for Gard, who scuffed straight at the Stevenage shotstopper on 66 minutes. Sixty seconds later Bwomono made a vital contribution at the back, sprinting round to clear off the goal-line before Pianim headed another cross clear.
After 69 minutes, Yonis Farah came on for Curran, who had been struggling with an injury, but by that time it was apparent that Stevenage had weathered the storm. Marah nodded a Kinali cross down, but that was well saved and the hosts were soon on the attack themselves, hitting the woodwork with a cross before the follow-up was blocked by Bishop.
With eight minutes remaining, Pianim was adjudged to have brought down an attacker as he attempted to retrieve an over-hit cross, giving Stevenage the chance to score from the penalty spot. That effort was stroked wide of the post, but four minutes later they were given a second chance as Bwomono handled a right-wing centre. Cregan this time rolled the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.
Farah volleyed a shot into a defender, and Clifford curled a 25-yard free-kick goalwards that was kept out, but the most notable aspect of ten minutes of stoppage time was a red card for a Stevenage player following an altercation with Farah besides the corner flag. However, by then, the home side had already done more than enough to claim the three points.
Southend United U18s: Nathan Bishop, Elvis Bwomono, Tom Clifford, Harry Cuthbert, Joe Mackenzie, Taylor Curran (Yonis Farah, 69), Damani Dias, Jon Benton (Zak Pianim, 58), Sewa Marah, Lewis Gard, Dru Yearwood (Eren Kinali, 58). Substitute not used: Harry Seaden.