Read the report from Blues U18s' latest fixture...Southend United U18s 1-5 Cambridge United U18s; EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference; Boots & Laces; Saturday 8th October 2016; Kick-Off 11:00am
By Robert Craven
Southend United’s recent upturn in form in the EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference was brought to an abrupt end as Cambridge United U18s left Boots & Laces with a 5-1 victory.
Blues went into the game having scored eleven goals in their previous two matches, but despite midfielder Dru Yearwood netting for the second game in succession to bring the hosts level just before the half-hour mark, the U’s triumphed after translating a 2-1 half-time advantage into a comfortable win.
Youth team coach Dave Huzzey was forced into one change to the starting line-up with captain Elvis Bwomono unable to take his place in the team due to a knee injury. First-year Dan Humphreys took the skipper’s place at right-back with Taylor Curran returning to the substitutes’ bench and Joe Mackenzie wearing the captain’s armband.
In their previous couple of games, Blues had taken an early lead, but this time it was Cambridge who edged ahead in the fifth minute. Goalkeeper Nathan Bishop had just made a superb double-save, parrying out a strong near-post strike before clambering up to block the follow-up from point-blank range, when an attacker rose to convert a corner from five yards out.
The U’s – who are coached by Southend’s former Lead Foundation Coach Mark Bonner – have made an excellent start to 2016/17 and went into the encounter in the third place in the league table, and they continued to play with confidence, forcing Bishop to advance off his goal-line to sweep the ball away from a forward in the seventh minute.
The visitors moved the ball crisply, whilst denying Southend the opportunity to create the chances they had in triumphs against Peterborough United and Northampton Town. In the tenth minute Harry Cuthbert tried to thread the ball through to Sewa Marah, but the powerful forward couldn’t bring it under control, and moments later he was prevented from connecting with a Damani Dias pass by the goalkeeper.
In the 17th minute Bishop got down low to push out another strong shot after Alex Clark had lost possession on the halfway line, with Cambridge swiftly having moved the play out to the right-hand side where their winger got to the bye-line ahead of Yonis Farah. Three minutes later a Farah cross was cleared to Yearwood, but he snatched at a shot from the edge of the penalty area and it flew wide.
However, whereas their early forays had appeared hurried, Southend were now building with more purpose and Marah held the ball up at the mid-point of the first half to set up Dias, who curled narrowly wide. Three minutes later Lewis Gard rolled a pass into the feet of Clark, who unleashed a ferocious 25-yard strike that was helped over the crossbar by the goalkeeper.
In the 29th minute, the pressure finally told. In-form Yearwood was the goalscorer, benefitting from more impressive link-up play by his team-mates. Marah held off the attentions of a defender to find Clark with a pass on the edge of the penalty area, and he helped it on to the first-year midfielder, whose clean strike found the back of the net with the assistance of a deflection.
Dias saw a 35th-minute effort blocked by a defender as Blues looked to move in front for the first time, but there was a worrying moment when Bishop was forced to dive at full-stretch to keep out a skidding long-range attempt, and five minutes before the break, Southend were behind. A forward peeled away from stand-in skipper Mackenzie to connect with a right-wing cross and convert from ten yards out.
Even then the hosts almost went in at the interval level. Clark delivered a right-wing free-kick in towards the near post, and Gard’s precise header looked as though it was flying into the top right-hand corner until it bounced back off the right-hand upright and away to safety.
The second half started with Humphreys crossing for Dias, but his snapshot was charged down and instead Cambridge extended their lead on 54 minutes. Again the U’s moved decisively up-field, getting in behind the Blues defence to create a close-range opportunity. Shotstopper Bishop did well to save the initial effort, but he was powerless to keep out the follow-up.
Huzzey tried to change things by introducing Tom Clifford and Eren Kinali in place of Cuthbert and Clark, but by the time of the second substitution his team were 4-1 down. A well-placed pass down the flank was latched onto by the right-winger, and he arrowed the ball into the near post where a shot was rifled into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Despite the three-goal deficit, Southend stuck to their task in the belief that one goal might spark an unlikely comeback, and Marah was frustrated when he failed to get hold of a 20-yard effort from a Dias pass that was easy for the goalkeeper to save. At the other end, Yearwood was required defensively to nod off the goal-line following a header from a corner.
With seven minutes remaining Humphreys released Dias down the inside-right channel, but despite holding off the Cambridge captain, the attacker could only find the side-netting with his finish, and that preceded a fifth goal for the U’s in the 89th minute as Yearwood committed a clumsy foul in the penalty area and the penalty was stroked home. Luton Town are the visitors next week as Blues look to get back on track.
Southend United U18s: Nathan Bishop, Dan Humphreys, Yonis Farah, Harry Cuthbert (Tom Clifford, 58), Joe Mackenzie, Zak Pianim, Alex Clark (Eren Kinali, 64), Dru Yearwood, Sewa Marah, Lewis Gard, Damani Dias. Substitutes not used: Ben Musselwhite, Emile Acquah, Taylor Curran.
Goal: Yearwood (29).
Cautioned: Yearwood (89, foul tackle).