Southend United bounced back from last weekend's defeat against Peterborough United to record a 3-1 victory over Barnet at Boots & Laces...
(You can watch highlights from the U18s game here.)
Emile Acquah found the target for the eighth time in 2017/18 and Eren Kinali converted a second-half penalty, but perhaps the greatest joy was reserved for central defender Taylor Curran, who notched his first youth team goal in his 34th appearance at the level. Greg Adinna scored a late consolation for the Bees.
Youth team coach Dave Huzzey was able to return to the formation that had brought success against Leyton Orient with Miles Mitchell-Nelson restored to the starting line-up at the heart of the defence. Terrell Egbri dropped to the substitutes' bench with Zak Pianim moving into midfield.
Blues made the perfect start to the encounter when Acquah scored in just the second minute. Dan Humphreys delivered an excellent right-wing cross that was flicked on by Kinali, but Acquah still had plenty to do as he controlled the ball at an awkward height before hooking his shot around full-back Dwight Pascal and into the net.
Kinali's stinging shot then forced goalkeeper Rennell McKenzie-Lyle to gather at the second attempt, but Southend swiftly moved two goals ahead in the tenth minute. Ide Osimeh delivered a fine corner that was met by Kinali. His effort was repelled, but Curran was on hand to gleefully stab home from close-range before wheeling away in celebration.
Humphreys continued to make forays down the right flank, and another marauding run ended with Jon Benton blasting over before Harry Cuthbert's hard work led to Kinali seeing a fierce strike deflected over. In between a rare Barnet attack was snuffed out by Mitchell-Nelson, who blocked a Rio Connell shot.
Every time Blues were awarded a corner it looked as though they would score, and Curran snatched at an opportunity to double his tally from another Osimeh flag-kick midway through the first half before seeing his follow-up charged down. Benton then sent a cross in from the opposite quadrant and Matt Rush dragged his shot wide of the right-hand post.
There were also chances created from open play and, on 28 minutes, Benton drilled an attempt into McKenzie-Lyle's gloves after Acquah had knocked down a Harry Seaden goal-kick. Nine minutes later Mitchell-Nelson thought he had contributed a third goal from an Osimeh corner, but his prodded finish was ruled out for an infringement.
Connell brought a good block from Seaden in the 39th minute after he had got in behind Osimeh, but the left-back was soon being deployed in an attacking vein as his late corner was met by Mitchell-Nelson, who could not keep his header down.
Blues could have extended their lead after winning the ball at the start of the second period, but defender Ivan Agyaakwah blocked Kinali's shot from a Rush pass and instead Barnet went close to pulling a goal back through Benjamin Aghadinno. First the forward side-footed wide after getting across his marker to meet a right-wing centre, then he glanced a free-kick off-target on the hour.
And the Bees were punished for their profligacy on 61 minutes when Kinali stroked home from the penalty spot. Acquah was tripped in the area and, although the referee did not immediately award the penalty, he was persuaded to do so by his assistant. Kinali made no mistake from twelve yards out to contribute his tenth youth team goal.
Substitute Terrell Egbri found Benton for another skidding strike that McKenzie-Lyle saved well, but for the most part Blues were content with their three-goal cushion. Further replacements in the form of O'Shane Stewart, Marley Hutchings and Sewa Marah joined Egbri on the pitch as Huzzey freshened the team’s composition.
There was frustration for Blues as Barnet scored late on, Rio Connell picking out Adinna's run for a fierce shot that left Seaden with no chance as it flew onto the top right-hand corner, but Southend saw out injury time with no further alarms. Indeed, a miserable day for the visitors was compounded in the third minute of stoppage time when Darren Abbey was dismissed for a foul on Stewart, but Blues host Gillingham next week in good spirits.
Southend United U18s: Harry Seaden, Dan Humphreys, Ide Osimeh (Marley Hutchings, 80), Zak Pianim, Taylor Curran, Miles Mitchell-Nelson, Eren Kinali (Sewa Marah, 84), Harry Cuthbert, Emile Acquah, Jon Benton (O'Shane Stewart, 77), Matt Rush (Terrell Egbri, 66). Substitute not used: Dan Confrey.
Goals: Acquah (2), Curran (10), Kinali (61, pen).