Blues U23s suffered a 6-1 defeat against a strong Milton Keynes Dons side in their latest Central League South Division fixture at Aveley FC’s Parkside home...
With an FA Cup replay against Crawley Town for the first team later in the day and Wednesday evening’s FA Youth Cup Second Round tie at Charlton Athletic for the U18s, coach Kevin Maher’s resources were stretched, but his squad battled manfully despite a four-goal salvo from Brandon Thomas-Asante consigning the team to a heavy reverse. The hard-working Eren Kinali notched Southend’s goal shortly after half-time.
The visitors’ starting eleven numbered 64 first-team appearances in 2018/19 alone, whereas the only Football League appearances for the Shrimpers came in the shape of Amadou Ba’s five games from the substitutes’ bench. Renei Batlokwa and Isaac Hutchinson have both played in the EFL Trophy.
Blues made a bright start, with Kinali keeping Mitch Hancox occupied with his industry on the right flank. Despite that, the first attempt on goal came courtesy of Ryan Watson in the fifth minute as the MK Dons midfielder forced Josh Bexon to dive to his left to push the ball away.
MK took the lead after a quarter-of-an-hour. Taylor Curran, who is currently on loan at National League club Braintree Town alongside forward Norman Wabo, did well to hold up Dylan Asonganyi, but the forward eventually prevailed as his centre was steered into the net by Thomas-Asante.
Hutchinson combined with Batlokwa and the Botswanan midfielder sent a deflected strike into the gloves of Stuart Moore on 18 minutes, but just a couple of moments later MK had doubled their advantage. Again Asonganyi was involved as this time his fierce effort was parried by Bexon into the path of Aiden Nesbitt and he tapped home the rebound.
Southend were forced into a change on 28 minutes when left-back Tom Clifford was injured. He was replaced by forward Emile Acquah, causing Zak Pianim to drop back into defence, and MK stretched their lead shortly after the half-hour mark. Asonganyi sent a strong shot goalwards, but Thomas-Asante was required to force the ball over the line after Bexon had made a partial stop.
Worse injury news was to follow for the hosts, who lost central defender Curran after he collided with Thomas-Asante in attempting to cut out a long ball forwards. Ahmet Biler was introduced at left-back, but a second defence reorganisation inside a quarter-of-an-hour caused further issues for Blues, who were caught out by Asonganyi’s controlled lob four minutes before half-time.
The opening period culminated with Acquah nodding a Phillips corner at Moore, but the second half began in much better fashion as Kinali scored for the second U23s game in succession. The young winger sent a superb strike in off the post to make it 4-1 and Blues picked their heads up.
However, MK restored their four-goal cushion just four minutes later as Thomas-Asante completed his hat-trick. The youth team product slid in to touch home a Nesbitt cross, and Thomas-Asante added his fourth, and MK’s sixth, in the 55th minute when a deflected volley nestled into the bottom right-hand corner.
Blues kept battling with Ba dragging a shot across the face of goal before Hutchinson curled narrowly over from 25 yards out. In-between Bexon made a superb save to palm Nesbitt’s long-range attempt around the left-hand upright.
Good build-up play by Batlokwa led to playmaker Phillips firing into Moore’s gloves from the edge of the penalty area at the mid-point of the second half, and Phillips then nodded wide of the left-hand post from an Acquah cross to bring the fixture to a close. Next week Blues U23s travel to Waltham Abbey in the Fourth Round of the BBC Essex Senior Cup (Wednesday 28th November, 7:45pm kick-off).
Southend United U23s: Josh Bexon, Dan Humphreys, Tom Clifford (Emile Acquah, 28), Zak Piamin, Taylor Curran (Ahmet Biler, 41), Rob Howard, Eren Kinali, Renei Batlokwa, Amadou Ba, Isaac Hutchinson, Harry Phillips. Substitutes not used: Callum Taylor, Ben Dabbs, Issa Mpenga.
Goal: Kinali (46).