Southend United U18s were made to pay for a series of missed opportunities at the beginning of the second half as they suffered a 5-1 reverse to Peterborough United in their first outing at Boots & Laces this season.
The teenage Shrimpers were hamstrung by the concession of two penalties, and two late Peterborough goals added a dominant sheen to the scoreline. Striker Issa Mpenga scored his first goal of the season to bring Blues level early in the opening period, but in the final reckoning it was rendered a mere consolation.
Youth team coach Danny Heath made three changes to the starting line-up from the 4-2 defeat at Luton Town on the first day of the season. Tommy Davis and Tommy Lambourne were awarded their first competitive U18s starts after appearing off the substitutes’ bench against the Hatters, whilst Ben Dabbs replaced fellow second-year scholar Reiss Chandler at right-back.
Lambourne engineered the first chance of the encounter in the third minute when he controlled a left-wing throw and fired narrowly over, but the blustery conditions at Boots & Laces impacted the game and the Shrimpers were guilty of a series of over-hit passes.
Peterborough hadn’t tested Callum Taylor in the opening nine minutes of the match, but the Southend custodian was beaten when Flynn Clarke found the back of the net following a free-kick.
Posh had managed to keep Freddy Eastwood quiet in the opening quarter-of-an-hour of the game, but he started to exert his influence by finding Mpenga with a through-ball. The forward squared to Bobby Unwin, who steered a shot over from 25 yards out.
With their next attack, Blues equalised. This time Lambourne stretched away from the visiting defence and sent a measured centre into the path of Mpenga from the left flank. The forward clinically angled the ball underneath the body of the advancing Josh Allen to make it 1-1.
Having hauled themselves back into the game, Southend were dealt a blow when Dabbs went down injured in the 24th minute. The hosts were still trying to organise themselves when Eastwood tripped Nicky Gyimah three minutes later and Posh skipper Archie Jones calmly stroked the result penalty beyond Taylor.
Blues were denied a spot-kick of their own after half-an-hour when Jimmy Wallace’s header appeared to connect with Taylor Horne’s hand, with the referee waving away their pleas, and the home side ended the opening period strongly with a succession of chances.
Firstly winger Unwin initiated a slick move down the left-hand side, combining with Lambourne. He offloaded to Mpenga, but defender Connor Peters stepped in to win the ball. Unwin then cut inside from the touchline to fire over from distance in the 39th minute before Wallace strode out of defence to set Mpenga away, with another important challenge seeing the ball go out for a corner.
Southend took that momentum into the second half, and they could’ve taken the lead inside the opening sixty seconds. Wallace’s dominant header dropped to Mpenga, who found Eastwood, and the second-year scholar’s attempt was brilliantly clawed away by goalkeeper Allen.
Lambourne got across his marker to stab a Chandler cross over at the near post whilst Unwin scuffed an Alex Bragg delivery and Wallace then nodded into Allen’s gloves just before the hour mark. Eastwood then went close for a second time when good build-up play by Bragg, Unwin and Mpenga led to the attacker dragging his finish marginally wide of the left-hand post.
Heath sent on Cameron Brown as an attacking option in place of Oli Coker in midfield, but midway through the second half Taylor brought down Brad Rolt and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Jones stepped up again and this time dispatched the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of Taylor’s net to make it 3-1.
Blues could have halved their deficit five minutes later when Unwin picked out Lambourne in the penalty area, but he couldn’t get the ball out of his feet and Peters was able to clear. Instead, in the 77th minute it was 4-1 as Taylor Horne’s right-wing pass was swept majestically into the top left-hand corner of the net by substitute Charlie O’Connell.
Almost straight from the kick-off Peterborough stretched their lead to four goals. Forward Rolt was found in space in the penalty area and he gleefully drilled his finish into the right-hand portion of the net.
There were a couple of late chances as Eastwood fired narrowly wide before setting up substitute Damari Anyadike in stoppage time. The first-year forward could have marked his first home appearance with a goal, but he angled his strike wide of the left-hand upright and the scoreline remained 5-1 to visitors.
Southend United U18s: Callum Taylor, Ben Dabbs (Reiss Chandler, 28), Alex Bragg, Sam Brogan, Tommy Davis, Jimmy Wallace, Freddy Eastwood, Oli Coker (Cameron Brown, 66), Issa Mpenga (Damari Anyadike, 78), Tommy Lambourne, Bobby Unwin. Substitutes not used: Jamie Grossart, Ergis Shala.
Goals: Mpenga (19).
Cautioned: Davis (80, foul tackle).