Youth team coach Danny Heath was pleased with the way the club’s first-year scholars blended with the U16s in the squad in order to earn a 2-0 friendly win over Colchester United on Saturday morning.
With both clubs enjoying a free week from competitive fixtures, the Essex rivals met at Boots & Laces and forwards Tayo Adedoja and Joe Shenouda netted during the second half to earn victory for the hosts.
“I thought the boys played very well,” said Heath. “George Murray-Jones has had one save to make in 90 minutes so, from a defending point of view, all over the pitch in possession and out of possession, it was very good.”
“It was good for the second-years because they got a chance to go and train with the U23s and Craig Fagan got a chance to see them and work with them, and for us the first-years and the U16s get a chance to work with each other and get to know each other better on and off the pitch.”
Blues could have moved ahead in the first half, but Jaden Crowhurst fired narrowly wide on a couple of occasions and Shenouda also struck the base of the right-hand upright. Schoolboy Mo Amir also sent a shot inches wide of the post as well as warming the gloves of the visiting goalkeeper.
However, Southend continued to carve out the better chances after the break and Adedoja – who had been part of the first team squad for Tuesday evening’s EFL Trophy match at Colchester – netted the opening goal on 65 minutes by steering the ball home after bursting through the heart of the defence.
Shenouda, who made his first U18s appearance when he started the previous week’s EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference triumph over Stevenage, then doubled the advantage in the 76th minute when he spun to fire into the roof of the net from the edge of the penalty area.
“Their goalkeeper has kept the score down and we could’ve scored six or seven in the first half,” Heath reported. “In the second half I felt we were comfortable and, in terms of performance, it was very good. I’m pleased for the boys to get the win as well.”
“I thought all the boys did really well. The first-years stepped up to the plate and led by example in terms of how they conducted themselves and how they worked, and the U16s followed that lead.”
“Maybe an area they could get better at is the verbal communication. When you look at the second-years and you’ve got the likes of Tommy Davis, Oli Coker, Jimmy Wallace, Cam Brown and Jamie Grossart – in fairness, all the second-years – they are the type of characters that will talk on the pitch.”
“That’s an area we maybe need to get better at with this group in terms of utilising their communication to organise each other, but by having these sort of games early on it gives us a chance to do that,” he added.
And Heath confirmed that the experience of challenging themselves against a Category Two Academy will stand the squad in good stead as they continue their preparations throughout the current campaign.
“We’re potentially looking at that being the youth team for next season, so we’re looking to arrange games to get them ready and get them embedded as a group,” he said.
“You’d rather the boys play against the Category Two Academies and even the Category One Academies because they are going to be challenging games. They are going to get tested and you get to find out more about the group.”
Southend United U18s: George Murray-Jones, Ibrahim Kamara, Louie Arrowsmith (Mitchell Fallows, 60), Callum Burkey, Luke Reeve, Habib Bolarinwa, Mo Amir (Sam Ratcliff, 60), Jaden Crowhurst (Jacob Bland, 60), Tayo Adedoja (Joe Shenouda, 76), Brian Garzon, Shenouda (Omari Williams, 60).