Southend United’s attempts to win a third match inside a week were derailed by Peterborough United U18s, who ran in four unanswered goals after half-time to win 5-1 at Boots & Laces.
Blues went in level at half-time thanks to O’Shane Stewart’s second goal in four days during injury time, but Dave Huzzey’s charges were unable to respond when Posh went ahead shortly after the hour mark and a disappointing second half display culminated in a second league defeat of the campaign.
Huzzey tried to address the squad’s defensive deficiencies in their previous two fixtures – Southend had conceded six goals in victories over Cambridge United and Newport County – by naming Sam Knock in a defensive midfield role. Schoolboy Jimmy Wallace stepped in at centre-back as Sam Brogan dropped to the substitutes’ bench.
The initial signs were good. Less than sixty seconds into the fixture Matt Rush and Terrell Egbri worked the ball into space for Jon Benton, who warmed the gloves of the goalkeeper. Benton was full of confidence after his midweek hat-trick, and he dribbled through midfield in the second minute, forcing the goalkeeper to make a parried stop. Charlie Kelman almost seized upon the rebound, but the custodian recovered quickly to block.
Blues were passing the ball excellently and starving their opponents of possession, and in the ninth minute Benton picked out Stewart, who curled narrowly wide from the edge of the penalty area. Rush then prodded a Knock through-ball into the path of Kelman, who was crowded out by a defender as he attempted to stab beyond the goalkeeper.
Ide Osimeh then stroked a free-kick wide and it was not until the 20th minute that Harry Seaden was called into action in the Blues goal. He stood tall to intimidate a forward before diving at his feet to save. Four minutes later Wallace had a goal ruled out for offside after he bundled home Miles Mitchell-Nelson’s flick-on from a Benton set-piece.
Mitchell-Nelson glanced a header wide from another Benton dead-ball delivery, but Southend lost their momentum when two Peterborough players clashed heads in midfield causing a five-minute delay shortly before half-time. One of the Posh players had to be substituted, but the visitors recovered their composure quickest.
In the final scheduled minute of the opening period, Peterborough took the lead. Reiss Chandler was beaten on the right-hand side and an attacker darted past Benton in the Blues box. The ball was dinked over Seaden and Oli Shackleton had the simplest task to tap in at the far post.
Southend’s response was excellent, and they ensured they would go in all-square at the interval when Stewart claimed his second goal of the season. Wallace won a dominant header in midfield to release the second-year scholar, who unleashed a deflected 25-yard effort into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Blues had the opportunity to build on that position after the break, even having watched as an attacker angled a shot across a full-stretch Seaden’s goal straight from the kick-off. The game was stretched and Rush nodded wide when Egbri found him with an excellent right-wing cross before Kelman was beaten to the ball by an alert Posh goalkeeper.
The home side continued to pile pressure on the Peterborough goal, with Benton firing over from 25 yards out and Wallace and Knock then thwarted in quick succession following a free-kick. On the hour Blues made good progress down the right-hand side before Rush smashed his shot into the goalkeeper’s gloves.
In the 63rd minute, an individual mistake cost Southend dearly. A hopeful pass over the top of the Blues back-line left Osimeh in two minds, and the full-back elected to try and nod back towards Seaden. Finn Clarke seized on the ball as it floated slowly towards the England U17s gloveman and managed to direct his own header into the net.
A Peterborough forward had sent a shot careering into the side-netting before they extended their lead two minutes later. This time Seaden’s short goal-kick to Osimeh put the defender under pressure and the ball was stolen by Shackleton before being smashed in off the underside of the crossbar.
Armet Biller was introduced as a substitute midway through the second half, but this failed to stem the flow of goals as Posh made it 4-1 in the 72nd minute. This time the ball was worked to a position 15 yards out and Clarke’s driven shot through a crowded penalty area nestled in the bottom right-hand corner beyond an unsighted Seaden.
The final goal arrived eleven minutes from the end of the match as Mitchell-Nelson diverted the ball into his own goal when he attempted to cut out a right-wing centre ahead of a waiting Peterborough forward. It capped a miserable morning for Blues, who could have netted a late consolation when Egbri fired against the outside of the left-hand upright. They will now seek to regroup ahead of next week’s trip to Leyton Orient.
Southend United U18s: Harry Seaden, Reiss Chandler, Ide Osimeh (Armet Biller, 67), Sam Knock, Miles Mitchell-Nelson, Jimmy Wallace, O’Shane Stewart, Jon Benton, Charlie Kelman, Matt Rush, Terrell Egbri. Substitutes not used: Callum Taylor, Sam Brogan, Ben Dabbs, Issa Mpangea.
Goals: Stewart (45+3).