Southend United U18s made it four wins from their last five games with a 3-1 victory over Milton Keynes Dons at Boots & Laces on Saturday morning...
Freddy Eastwood’s second goal is as many games gave Blues a half-time advantage before leading goalscorer Matt Rush and Terrell Egbri completed the scoring after the interval. The visitors netted a penalty shortly after the hour mark, but it wasn’t enough to derail Dave Huzzey’s side.
Huzzey made just one change to the starting line-up that had defeated Leyton Orient 5-0 in their previous fixture as Charlie Kelman dropped to the substitutes’ bench and fellow first-year scholar Issa Mpangea was handed his first youth team start.
Blues enjoyed a massive let-off inside the opening thirty seconds of the encounter when MK broke down the left-hand side and a side-footed attempt from ten yards out was angled wide of the right-hand post, and it would be the visiting team that would dominate possession in the early stages.
In the seventh minute central defender Miles Mitchell-Nelson and full-back Reiss Chandler combined to clear a header from a set-piece off the goal-line, and MK continued to press forwards, earning a succession of set-pieces that were shielded from Harry Seaden’s goal.
In the 16th minute, Southend scored with their first real attack. Egbri received the ball on the right-hand side and swung the ball into the penalty area. The cross narrowly eluded Rush and Mpangea but was nodded out as far as Eastwood on the edge of the penalty area. The attacker steadied himself before steering his shot inside the right-hand post.
Two minutes later Seaden brilliantly maintained the one-goal lead with a fingertip reactionary save from a close-range attempt, and opposite number Alfie Jones emulated that with a smart stop to deny Mitchell-Nelson from Alex Bragg’s corner.
Blues continued to be patient before stepping up the pressure inside the final eight minutes of the first half. Mpangea connected with a Bragg cross to test Jones before a defender blocked his close-range follow-up, and in the 40th minute skipper O’Shane Stewart set up Jon Benton, who curled narrowly wide of the left-hand upright.
Seconds later Stewart almost put Rush clear with a delightful lofted through-ball, but Jones read the situation well to clear off the feet of the forward. There was still time for Mpangea to stretch and narrowly fail to meet Egbri’s cross after Mitchell-Nelson had won the ball in midfield and Benton to volley wide after smashing Eastwood’s flick over the midfielder’s shoulder.
MK went close in the dying stages of the first half with a curling shot at the end of a jinking run, but Blues returned to the front foot after the break as Jones saved from Rush and Mpangea forced a defender to divert the ball against his own post.
Egbri then forced Jones into a superb save as he palmed a stinging shot over in the 49th minute before making another fine stop to deny Stewart, who had driven the ball goalwards from 25 yards out. Rush retrieved the ball for Benton, with Jones pouncing on another goalbound effort.
Blues finally doubled their advantage in the 55th minute. Stewart brought the ball through midfield before exchanging passes with Mpangea. The midfielder’s touch was heavy, allowing Jones to attempt to win the ball, but it squirmed out of his grasp and Rush was on hand to convert his eighth goal of the season.
Eastwood immediately warmed Jones’ gloves from a Rush as Blues sought to make their dominance count but, after a forward had dragged a shot across the face of goal, Mitchell-Nelson was adjudged to have tripped a forward in the penalty area. The spot-kick was converted, with Seaden sent the wrong way, and MK had halved their arrears.
Rush set-up Mpangea with an outstanding pass, but the forward’s effort was smothered by Jones and Benton shaved the right-hand post with a deflected 30-yard free-kick. Blues were back in the driving seat and only the brilliance of Jones, diving away to save substitute Kelman’s header, kept MK in touch.
Rush also saw a shot blocked when Benton may have been better placed to finish, but Southend made sure of the win with nine minutes remaining as Egbri scored the goal of the game. He received the ball from Seaden’s booming goal-kick and cut inside before firing clinically beyond custodian Jones.
Southend United U18s: Harry Seaden, Reiss Chandler, Alex Bragg, O’Shane Stewart, Miles Mitchell-Nelson, Jimmy Wallace, Terrell Egbri, Jon Benton, Issa Mpangea (Charlie Kelman, 71), Matt Rush, Freddy Eastwood (Sam Brogan, 81). Substitutes not used: Callum Taylor, Ide Osimeh, Sam Knock.
Goals: Eastwood (16), Rush (55), Egbri (81).