Southend United U18s ensured they would spend the festive period in second place in the EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference standings with a 3-1 victory over Dagenham & Redbridge at Boots & Laces...
O’Shane Stewart’s first goal of the season and Emile Acquah’s 25th youth team goal underpinned a dominant first-half performance, but the Daggers were handed a lifeline when Dylan Florence pulled a goal back midway through the second period. However, Ide Osimeh’s 72nd-minute corner kick delivery, with the assistance of visiting goalkeeper Louie Chapman, gave the scoreline a degree of comfort.
With Lowestoft Town not in action, on-loan full-back Dan Humphreys came back into the side at right-back, whilst Sam Knock made his first start of the campaign to register a successful return from injury at the expense of Taylor Curran. The remainder of the starting eleven was unchanged from the team that defeated Peterborough United 2-1 in their last outing.
On a bitterly cold morning at the club’s training ground, it was the away team that made the brighter start. They forced a couple of early corners and, from one such set-piece Briggs Ojemen nodded into the grateful gloves of Harry Seaden. That was the only occasion on which the Blues gloveman was called into action, and for the most part Southend organised themselves well to counter the Dagenham threat.
It was evident that the hosts were pressing the Daggers back-line hard, and such harrying almost led to a mistake in the seventh minute when Terrell Egbri tried to seize on a misplaced pass, but defender Jack Lee recovered well to clear. Eleven minutes later Acquah almost latched onto an underhit back-pass, but goalkeeper Tarek Naija came off his line to grab the ball.
There were signs that Southend were getting more confident, and Jon Benton smashed narrowly over from an Acquah knockdown before playing a part in the opening goal on 20 minutes. The midfielder thought about sending another shot towards goal, but instead elected to roll the ball to Stewart, who thumped a splendid effort into the top left-hand corner of the net from the edge of the ‘D’.
Taking the lead enhanced the belief of the Blues side, and within seconds Humphreys had opened up the Dagenham defence with a lofted pass for Eren Kinali to chase. He cut the ball back to Benton, who stabbed over from ten yards out. Three minutes later it was skipper Harry Cuthbert who drew an unconvincing save from Naija with a long-range attempt.
Cuthbert then found Acquah with a through-ball that led to a big penalty shout, but Lee’s challenge on the front man was deemed to have been legal before a succession of corners followed. Miles Mitchell-Nelson saw the ball diverted off his head, then Naija got the faintest fingertip to Benton’s flag-kick to send it over before Acquah headed off target from a Benton cross.
The incessant pressure was too much for the Daggers to bear, and in the 33rd minute Acquah deservedly doubled Southend’s advantage. The front man received the ball from Osimeh on the left-hand side of the penalty area and wriggled free from his marker before lifting the ball beyond Naija and into the net.
Acquah could have doubled his personal tally within four minutes but, when Benton’s attempts to try and round Naija failed, the striker’s shot was deflected wide. Seaden showed good alertness to pull off a fine save low to his right-hand side from a Luke Hirst strike, but Blues were comfortable at 2-0 as they withdrew for half-time.
There was little change at the outset of the second period, for which trialist Rob Howard was introduced in place of Stewart. The central midfielder had previously spent time with the Blues Academy before joining Arsenal and Colchester United.
Acquah nodded wide within three minutes of the restart and he was presented with another excellent opportunity to score from a superb swinging Osimeh cross in the 50th minute, only to drag his shot wide of the right-hand post. Benton then released Egbri for a teasing left-wing centre that was frantically cleared away from Acquah and Kinali.
There was a chance for Dagenham to narrow the lead in the 53rd minute, but Lanre Balogun’s well-struck 25-yard effort was brilliantly touched over by Seaden. Play soon reverted to the opposite end, and Kinali planted a header wide from a pinpoint Cuthbert cross shortly after the hour mark.
Schoolboy Reiss Chandler was given a second chance to impress as a replacement for Humphreys in the 62nd minute, and Blues were still reorganising when Florence netted for Daggers at the end of a swift counter-attack. The forward broke down the left to slide the ball beyond Seaden just seconds after Knock had headed into Chapman’s gloves at the other end.
Florence drew a fine stop from Seaden at his toecaps as Dagenham sought an equalising goal, but they instead conceded again during an open passage of play. Chandler was involved, forcing Chapman to turn his fierce strike around the near post after good work by Benton and Acquah. Osimeh’s corner then appeared to be sneaking inside the far post before Chapman fumbled it over the goal-line.
Howard, who showed some good touches in midfield, found Acquah in the closing stages, and his centre was inches away from being converting by a sliding Cuthbert at the far post. There was also an opportunity for Dagenham, but Balogun fired over during stoppage time and Southend could celebrate a 3-1 success in their final match of 2017.
Southend United: Harry Seaden, Dan Humphreys (Reiss Chandler, 62), Ide Osimeh, O’Shane Stewart (Rob Howard, 46), Sam Knock, Miles Mitchell-Nelson, Terrell Egbri, Harry Cuthbert, Emile Acquah, Jon Benton (Marley Hutchings, 84), Eren Kinali. Substitutes not used: Callum Taylor, Dan Rogers.
Goals: Stewart (20), Acquah (33), Osimeh (72).