Southend United U18s suffered a narrow defeat in a nine-goal thriller against Millwall U18s in their latest pre-season friendly at Boots & Laces.
Blues were skippered by Sewa Marah, and the second-year striker stole the headlines by scoring all four goals in a virtuoso performance against their Category Two opponents. However, the Lions managed to edge to victory after overcoming a 4-3 deficit inside the final fifteen minutes.
It looked as though it would be a long morning for Southend when they slipped two goals behind inside the opening four minutes of the match. Millwall took the lead in just the second minute following a right-wing move, and they doubled their advantage shortly afterwards when defender Sam Knock deflected a shot beyond Harry Seaden after the hosts failed to clear a left-flank delivery.
However, Blues fought back and, after going close with a powerful run in the fifth minute, Marah halved the deficit after springing the offside trap to latch onto O'Shane Stewart's through-ball. The front-man coolly rounded the goalkeeper before tapping into an unguarded net in the ninth minute.
With less than a quarter-of-an-hour gone, Southend drew level with Marah on target again. This time the forward was found by Matt Rush, playing in the hole behind his team-mate, who flicked on a Marley Hucthings throw. Marah held off a defender before spinning and firing home via the inside of the left-hand post.
First-years Terrell Egbri and Jon Benton both went close with half-volleyed attempts from just outside the penalty area, but Millwall moved in front for a second time in the 21st minute when an incisive through-ball found a forward and he stroked the ball past Seaden and into the bottom right-hand corner.
Despite that setback, a Southend side short of second-years Nathan Bishop, Dan Humphreys, Taylor Curran, Eren Kinali and Emile Acquah following their inclusion in the U21s match against Chelsea, showed great resilience and equalised again. Marah won the ball in midfield and then continued his run to latch onto Rush's header and drill home for his hat-trick ten minutes before half-time.
Blues had a stroke of fortune within seconds of the start of the second half when, following a superb one-handed save from Seaden, the rebound was blasted against the left-hand post, and they took full advantage as Marah netted for the fourth time in the match. This goal was the best of the bunch as he chested the ball down on the edge of the penalty area and volleyed over his shoulder and into the top right-hand corner in the 51st minute to notch his sixth goal in two matches.
Millwall again hit the woodwork, this time twice in quick succession just before the hour mark as a free-kick was driven against the right-hand post and the follow-up thudded into the left upright, but Blues spurned excellent chances to extend their lead as Miles Mitchell-Nelson nodded a Rush free-kick over and Marah side-footed wide having beaten the goalkeeper.
Two goals inside three minutes saw the lead change hands again, this time in favour of the visitors. Millwall levelled when a right-wing centre was crashed in at the far post, and then a left-wing corner was powerfully headed into the top left-hand corner in the 78th minute.
Even then, Benton could have earned a share of the spoils from the friendly encounter when he won the ball impressively from a defender, but his shot flashed agonisingly wide of the far post. Southend now head to Chelsea on Wednesday and Charlton Athletic next Saturday as their pre-season campaign intensifies ahead of the start of 2017/18 on Saturday 5th August.
Southend United U18s: Harry Seaden, Marley Hutchings, Yonis Farah (Ide Osmieh, 46), O'Shane Stewart (Harry Cuthbert, 71), Sam Knock (Miles Mitchell-Nelson, 46), Zak Pianim, Imad Sanke (Dan Hawkes, 57), Jon Benton, Sewa Marah, Matt Rush, Terrell Egbri.