Blues U18's defeated by OrientSouthend United U18s 0-2 Leyton Orient U18s; Football League Youth Alliance Merit League One; Boots & Laces; Saturday 26th March 2016; Kick-Off 11:00am
By Robert Craven
Southend United U18s were defeated 2-0 by Football League Youth Alliance Merit League One leaders Leyton Orient despite an encouraging display at Boots & Laces.
Blues were on top for much of the first half, and did not fall behind to the O’s, who hold a 100% record in the second stage of the season, until the hour mark. A late strike made the victory more comfortable for the visitors, but boss Dave Huzzey was satisfied with the display: “I’m content with the performance,” he stated.
“We played against a very strong Orient side who, as the league table shows, haven’t lost a game in six – in fact they haven’t lost a game in eight, actually, and they’ve only conceded one goal in eight – so I knew it was going to be a tough test, but I think the boys that played did themselves a whole lot of justice,” he added.
With midfield trio Joe Bedford, Renei Batlokwa and Harry Phillips all picking up injuries in the 2-2 draw with Exeter City, there was an unfamiliar look to the centre of the park for Southend. Tom Clifford moved from left-back to augment the work of Ben Musselwhite and trialist Harry Daly. Winger Alex Clark made his first start for over six months and schoolboy Yonis Farah returned at full-back.
Goalkeeper Josh Bexon had only returned from the first-team trip to Rochdale in the early hours of the morning, but he was largely redundant during an impressive opening 45 minutes for the Shrimpers. As early as the second minute Daly showed his industrious nature by holding off an opponent to set up Norman Wabo, who flashed a 25-yard shot past the post.
The duo combined again in the tenth minute when Daly won possession for Wabo, who swivelled onto the ball and fired into the goalkeeper’s gloves, and Blues continued to work hard until the 25th minute, when the O’s custodian made an outstanding stop. Musselwhite’s chip forward was nodded out to Wabo, who thundered a strike goalwards, only to find an outstretched right glove in position to palm around the post.
Just after the half-hour mark, the second-year striker went even closer to breaking the deadlock. A Bexon free-kick was flicked on by Clifford to Wabo, who thumped his shot against the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area. The goal was still shaking when play was restarted such was the ferocity of the attempt.
Orient had failed to threaten Bexon’s goal until the 41st minute, when a deep free-kick was glanced past the left-hand upright from close range. Then, on the stroke of half-time, another set-piece from close to the halfway line was met by a looping header that bounced back off Bexon’s bar as the O’s came into the game.
The match was goalless at the break, but Blues would have been confident of further scaring their visitors, who warmed Bexon’s palms with a 20-yard shot in the 47th minute. Eight minutes later, Musselwhite spread play to the right flank where full-back Elvis Bwomono drove inside off the touchline to drill his shot at the goalkeeper.
Musselwhite, along with Clifford and Daly, had been very impressive in midfield, but Orient took the lead in the 61st minute. A long left-wing throw-in was flicked on at the near post and then laid into the path of Sam Dalby, who swept the ball past an unsighted Bexon and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net from around eight yards out.
Wabo’s opportunistic 25-yarder flew narrowly wide in the 74th minute, and the direct approach of Damani Dias was introduced with a quarter-of-an-hour to play, but the O’s doubled their lead just two minutes later when a midfield pass was chipped over the head of Abdul Salami and Sam Alderson was able to slot past the advancing Bexon.
U16s forward Eren Kinali replaced midfielder Lewis Gard immediately as Southend sought to get something from the game, but the closest they would come was a Dias header from a Daly corner in the final minute of the regulation ninety when a defender was required to nod off the goal-line. Blues now make the overnight trip to Plymouth Argyle for their next game on Saturday.
“We were unfortunate in the first half not to go in 1-0 or even 2-0 up. I thought the performance deserved that. I still thought in the second half we performed well, but that’s the lesson we’ve got to learn; when you play against the better sides – and this will happen in senior football as well – they punish you, and if you don’t take your chances, then you’re always liable to let one in at the other end,” reflected Huzzey.
Southend United U18s: Josh Bexon, Elvis Bwomono, Yonis Farah, Ben Musselwhite, Joe Mackenzie, Abdul Salami, Lewis Gard (Damani Dias, 75), Tom Clifford (Eren Kinali, 77), Norman Wabo, Harry Daly, Alex Clark. Substitutes not used: Nathan Bishop, Tom Ripsher.
Cautioned: Farah (85, foul tackle).