Read the report from a sensational win for the U18s
EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference; Mick George Training Academy, Orton Longueville; Saturday 17th December 2016; Kick-Off 11:00am
By Robert Craven
Southend United U18s signed off 2016 in sensational style by recording a 9-1 win over Peterborough United at the Mick George Training Academy to move up to third in the EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference.
Winger Alex Clark scored a spectacular 23-minute hat-trick either side of the half-time interval and forwards Sewa Marah and Imani Matthews both contributed braces, whilst Tom Clifford and Damani Dias also netted against the division’s bottom team. Marah’s opener had not arrived until the 38th minute, and Blues bagged seven goals in the second half alone.
Youth team coach Dave Huzzey made two changes to the starting line-up with second-year scholars Elvis Bwomono and Lewis Gard not included. Dan Humphreys replaced Bwomono at right-back and Sewa Marah was restored to the team in place of Gard. Joe Mackenzie took the captain’s armband, and he could not have envisaged what would eventually transpire during a hard-fought opening period.
Blues started well, and Clark appeared to be in the mood to cause trouble for the Peterborough defence as early as the fourth minute when he combined with Clifford on the left flank. Play was then switched to the right, where Marah crossed for Emile Acquah at the back post, but unfortunately the tall forward could not twist his body to send his header on target.
The Posh front-line looked dangerous in the early stages, and in the eighth minute Nathan Bishop was forced to spring off of his goal-line to apprehend a forward. As he tried to gather the ball at the striker’s toecaps, it ran loose and Clifford had to clear to safety. Sixty seconds later the forward burst down the left again, but this time his shot was directed straight at Bishop.
There were openings at the other end as well, and Eren Kinali’s right-wing centre was marginally too pacey for Acquah to convert from close range before Marah mis-timed his back post leap and was unable to head home a Clifford cross. Marah then held the ball up on the right before teeing up Ben Musselwhite, who smashed over after a quarter-of-an-hour.
The hosts threatened again, and a right-wing delivery was just out of the reach of an onrushing forward before a hopeful punt from the halfway line by a Posh defender had to be watched by Bishop as it cleared the crossbar by a matter of inches. The first-year gloveman then made a superb save midway through the first half to maintain parity as he turned away a fierce strike at his near post.
A back post header from the ensuing corner was blocked on the line but, after that difficult period passed, Southend moved into the ascendancy. Dru Yearwood’s pass for Kinali on the half-hour was drilled into the goalkeeper’s gloves and, although Bishop made another good near post stop shortly afterwards, Blues took the lead seven minutes before the break.
Musselwhite initiated the move with a deep free-kick from inside the Southend half which was controlled by Clark. He took the ball quickly past a couple of mesmerised opponents before getting to the byeline and cutting back for Marah, who stabbed home from six yards out to notch his first goal for two months.
The celebrations had barely had a chance to die down when Clark doubled the advantage in the 40th minute. Blues had enjoyed a sustained period of possession, probing at both edges of the penalty area before Kinali fizzed the ball across the edge of the penalty area and Clark smashed his sizzling shot home via the underside of the crossbar.
Peterborough resisted any further damage until half-time, but Clark was on the scoresheet again with another flamboyant finish three minutes after the restart. Musselwhite was involved again, finding Acquah on the edge of the penalty area. He held play up before rolling the ball into Clark, who lashed an unstoppable 25-yard strike into the top right-hand corner of the net.
The home side did momentarily reduce the arrears in the 54th minute when a right-wing free-kick was met at the back post and, after the ball had ricocheted around, it was bundled home from close-range. Blues had conceded twice in beating Barnet 3-2 and failed to hold onto a 2-0 lead in their previous game, a 2-2 draw against Northampton Town, but there would be no such charity on this occasion.
Instead Southend returned quickly to the front foot and they restored their three-goal lead two minutes later through Marah’s eighth goal of the campaign. The powerful forward showcased all of his strength as he held off a defender in entering the penalty area down the inside-right channel before blasting the ball beyond the goalkeeper from ten yards out.
A few moments after the hour mark, Blues were 5-1 in front and Clark was celebrating the first hat-trick by a Southend player in U18s football since a Harry Phillips treble at Barton Rovers in The FA Youth Cup last season. Yearwood won possession 25 yards from goal and offloaded to the former AFC Hornchurch youngster, who steered home inside the right-hand post.
On 65 minutes full-back Clifford added a sixth for the teenage Shrimpers. Marah was galloping away to the right-hand side of centre before being brought down 28 yards from goal. Musselwhite stood over the ball with Clifford, but there was no doubt that the left-footer would favour the dead ball situation, and he curled home beautifully into the top right-hand corner of the net.
The defender could have added a personal second four minutes later when a 20-yard set-piece was swung sweetly against the woodwork, and Yearwood then fired into the goalkeeper’s gloves before Musselwhite – who is still to open his youth team goalscoring account – was unfortunate to see an effort charged down on the edge of the penalty area.
Unsurprisingly Southend were playing with real confidence now, with Huzzey still encouraging them forward at every opportunity. Two seasons ago Blues had lost 7-0 at the same venue, and they grabbed their seventh goal on this occasion in the 80th minute when substitute Yonis Farah made the initial incision down the left flank and Clark delivered the ball for Dias to complete a simple twelve-yard finish.
Matthews had only been brought on in the 69th minute, but he was able to add to two goals in the closing stages. With three minutes left, the unplayable Clark sent the ball into Marah’s feet down the inside-left channel. He was unable to get a shot away himself, but he returned the ball to the winger, who now crossed for Matthews to side-foot home.
Marah was hungry for his hat-trick, but his best opportunity, in the 89th minute, lacked the power to trouble the goalkeeper, and instead Matthews made it 9-1 in stoppage time. Centre-half Mackenzie was the provider, popping up on the right flank to cut back for the forward, who placed an easy shot into the net to complete Southend’s biggest win of the season.
Southend United U18s: Nathan Bishop, Dan Humphreys, Tom Clifford (Yonis Farah, 77), Ben Musselwhite (Harry Cuthbert, 85), Joe Mackenzie, Taylor Curran, Eren Kinali (Damani Dias, 61), Dru Yearwood, Emile Acquah (Imani Matthews, 69), Sewa Marah, Alex Clark. Substitute not used: Zak Pianim.
Goals: Marah (38, 56), Clark (40, 48, 63), Clifford (65), Dias (80), Matthews (87, 90+1)