Southend United U23s got their Central League Cup Group A campaign going with a 1-0 win over Barnet at The Hive on Tuesday afternoon.
Central defender Daniel Matsuzaka scored the only goal of the game shortly after the hour mark to hand Kevin Maher’s squad their first competitive victory of the season, although Blues ended the match with ten men after full-back Elvis Bwomono was dismissed in the closing stages.
Josh Wright made his first appearance in a Southend shirt after signing for the club at the weekend, and he completed 75 minutes before being replaced ahead of this Saturday’s first-team encounter at Fleetwood Town. Central defender Taylor Curran made his inaugural appearance at U23 level, whilst goalkeeper Nathan Bishop and left-back Tom Clifford were included for the first time this term.
Speaking after the victory, Kevin Maher said: "I'm delighted with the result. We conceded a few goals the last time out to come away with the clean sheet was the most pleasing thing overall.
"The shape of the team and how we defended as a team was good and it was a good performance all round.
“Dan is a threat from set-pieces and he managed to get himself free in the box and scored a very good header. "I would like to see him get a few more."
On Bwomono's sending off, Maher said: “The referee judged him to be the last man but we see it slightly differently. In the last minute of the game it was very unfortunate."
Both sides had opportunities to score in the opening stages, but it was Barnet’s Ephron Mason-Clark who went closest in the seventh minute when he fired narrowly wide. Bees striker Shane Cojocarel was similarly off-target shortly afterwards, although he did force Bishop into a fine low save just before the half-hour mark.
Southend thought they might have the opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot four minutes before the break when Norman Wabo was brought down in the area, but the referee instead cautioned the Southend youngster for simulation and the teams went in level.
Bishop made a fine stop a couple of minutes into the second period when Fumnaya Shomotun was given the opportunity to shoot, but Blues took the lead in the 62nd minute through Matsuzaka. The skipper, and Japanese U19 international, rose to meet a Nico Cotton corner and plant a header past Kai McKenzie-Lyle.
Having conceded five goals in their previous outing, against Milton Keynes Dons in the league, Southend looked a lot more solid at the back, and their clean sheet was preserved by the woodwork in the dying seconds as Malaki Mars fired against the upright. That came about following the free-kick awarded when Bwomono was dismissed for bringing down a forward and denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity.
Bwomono’s suspension will be from non first-team football, meaning that he is available to Phil Brown for Southend’s upcoming League One encounters, although he will miss out on the next assignment for the U23s, a return to league action against Bristol Rovers at Boots & Laces on Tuesday 3rd October.
Southend United U23s: Nathan Bishop, Elvis Bwomono, Tom Clifford, Josh Wright, Daniel Matsuzaka, Taylor Curran, Jack Bridge, Harry Phillips, Norman Wabo, Michael Klass, Nico Cotton.