Southend United U23s were beaten by Connor Hubble’s last-gasp free-kick for Canvey Island in their first pre-season outing of the 2020/21 campaign.
It had looked as though substitute Cameron Brown’s 80th minute equaliser had earned the young Shrimpers a share of the spoils at Park Lane, but Hubble had other ideas as he found the bottom left-hand corner with his set-piece to add to Jimmy Wallace’s unfortunate own goal in the opening period.
Forward Matt Rush was the most experienced member of the Southend side, having made seven League One appearances last term for the Blues first-team, whilst goalkeeper Callum Taylor also made his senior debut last season as a late substitute against Coventry City. Sam Brogan and Freddy Eastwood, who spent loan spells at Canvey in 2019/20, were also named in the starting line-up.
It was Mark Bentley’s home side who made the better start in blustery conditions as Ryan Melaugh thundered a shot into the side-netting in the third minute of the match, and ten minutes later the Gulls were celebrating taking the lead despite the brilliance of Taylor in goal.
The 18-year-old shotstopper made a superb stop low down to thwart Melaugh from the left-hand side of the penalty area, but despite his best efforts to keep out the follow-up, the ball found its way into the bottom right-hand corner of the net via central defender Wallace, who registered an own goal.
Five minutes later Taylor did well to palm a swirling left-wing cross away from goal, and it was clear that Southend were taking their time to adjust to the conditions. When they did manage to get the ball down and play, first-year professional midfielder O’Shane Stewart dictated the direction of the ball from the centre of the park.
In the 26th minute, another first-year pro, Jon Benton, warmed the gloves of Canvey custodian Bobby Mason with a curling effort from 25 yards out before two of the club’s youth team scholars kept their non-league opponents at bay with important interceptions in the penalty area.
First-year Luke Reeve did well to slide in and challenge Melaugh on the left-hand side of the penalty area before central defensive colleague Wallace stepped in to dispossess Tobi Joseph and avert the danger.
The half ended with the visitors creating a couple of half-chances. First Stewart, who spent some time on loan at Margate last season, set-up Rush, only for the forward to snatch at the chance and fire off-target, before Stewart himself dragged an effort wide of the left-hand upright from the ‘D’.
Blues began the second period on the front foot with an incisive run by Rush leading to the former Wickford Town youngster setting up Eastwood. He cut back onto his right foot before seeing his curling attempt deflected over the crossbar.
Brown was introduced in the 53rd minute and he almost created a leveller when his right-wing cross was claimed by Mason under pressure from Reeve and Wallace, but it was not until the mid-point of the second half that Rush spurned the best opportunity of the game. He was found by Benton’s cut-back around 15 yards out but, leaning backwards, he scooped over the crossbar.
A couple of minutes later Taylor produced an agile save to turn Joseph’s fierce shot away from goal before Rush went close once again at the other end after collecting Sam Brogan’s pass on the left-hand side of the penalty area. The striker delivered a shot that was deflected inches over at the expense of a corner.
Southend finally equalised with ten minutes remaining. The impressive Stewart fired towards Mason from the edge of the penalty area and, when the goalkeeper parred the shot out, second-year scholar Brown was on hand to stab home the rebound from eight yards out.
Stewart could have handed the visitors victory five minutes later when he drilled Benton’s short corner inches wide of the left-hand post, but instead it was Canvey who snatched the late success with virtually the final kick of the match as Hubble deceived Taylor with a free-kick that was curled into the bottom left-hand corner.
Southend United U23s: Callum Taylor, Reiss Chandler, Ide Osimeh, O’Shane Stewart, Jimmy Wallace, Luke Reeve, Sam Brogan, Freddy Eastwood (Trialist, 76), Matt Rush, Jon Benton, Tommy Lambourne (Cameron Brown, 53).
Goal: Brown (80).