Southend United U23s continued their excellent form in this season’s Central League Cup with a second victory in three matches to move to the top of the South Group A table.
Kevin Maher’s side are now favourites to qualify for the knockout stages of a competition that they won two seasons ago courtesy of a 4-3 win against Peterborough United in a rearranged clash at Boots & Laces on Tuesday afternoon.
Leading goalscorer Norman Wabo was not involved after he made an impressive Roots Hall debut as a substitute in the League One fixture against Fleetwood Town at the weekend, but Theo Robinson and Amadou Ba were both included in the starting line-up. Harry Kyprianou partnered Zak Pianim in the heart of the defence whilst Nico Cotton took a break from his loan spell at Lowestoft Town to feature.
Goals have not been in short supply for Blues U23s with 24 in the past five matches, and this fixture was no different. Indeed, the opener arrived less than ten minutes into the match when Harry Phillips delivered an excellent right-wing corner and former Lincoln City frontman Robinson nodded home.
Ba fired over after being picked out by a Michael Klass pass shortly afterwards but, despite Nathan Bishop making a good save to turn a low shot around the post, Southend doubled their advantage when Phillips crossed from the right-hand side again and this time Kyprianou was on hand to head in just before the half-hour mark.
Robinson was denied the opportunity to extend the lead when Klass elected to shoot from distance rather than pick out the striker, and Batlokwa was thwarted by the Posh goalkeeper as he attempted to latch onto a Phillips through-ball, giving the visitors an opportunity to get back into the game.
Peterborough began their fightback when they were awarded a penalty five minutes before half-time and Junior Morias converted beyond Nathan Bishop to halve the deficit. Three minutes later Idris Kanu, who played for Essex Schools and at West Ham United’s Academy before linking-up with Posh, netted a superb solo strike to haul his side level.
There was still time for Phillips to force the Posh custodian to palm a header wide, and the second period began in a similar vein. A Posh forward fired straight at Bishop when he found himself with an excellent chance to score, and he was made to pay when Ba travelled down the inside-right channel and smacked a rising shot into the roof of the net to make it 3-2.
Within a few minutes Peterborough were level again as Morais doubled his personal tally with a well-taken back-heeled finish to set-up an exciting final 25 minutes. However, they were beaten again by Phillips’ superb set-piece delivery midway through the second period when another corner was headed home by Kyprianou.
Phillips could have sealed the three points with a couple of individual efforts during the closing stages, leaving the hosts indebted to youth team defender Miles Mitchell-Nelson, on as a second-half substitute, as he made a brave block to protect a 4-3 scoreline. Blues now know that a draw in their final match, at home to Milton Keynes Dons, will be enough to progress to the Semi-Finals of the competition.
Southend United U23s: Nathan Bishop, Elvis Bwomono, Nico Cotton, Michael Klass, Zak Pianim, Harry Kyprianou, Renei Batlokwa, Dru Yearwood (Miles Mitchell-Nelson), Theo Robinson, Harry Phillips, Amadou Ba (Alex Clark).