Southend United U23s were unable to make their domination count as Canvey Island overturned a 1-0 deficit during the final 20 minutes of their pre-season friendly at Park Lane.
Cameron Brown’s fine finish on the half-hour mark put Blues in front, but a string of missed chances - as well as an inspired goalkeeping display by Bobby Mason - kept the visitors at bay and a Connor Hubble penalty and Elliott Ronto goal gave the Gulls a 2-1 victory.
“I was disappointed,” remarked lead professional development phase coach Danny Heath afterwards. We totally dominated the game; we were sharp on the ball, sharp in our passing and sharp in our movement.”
“Benno [Mark Bentley, Canvey manager] has had to change formation three times in the first half, and we should’ve had more than one goal. Our goalie, Collin, has not had a save to make in the first half.”
“Bobby Mason is a good goalkeeper, and I felt too many of our shots were either straight at him or missed the target. You have got to make a goalie of his quality at least make a save. Funnily enough, I thought the one we scored went under his body, so we were probably a bit fortunate with that one.”
Forward Simeon Akinola was named in the line-up for Blues, with O’Shane Stewart - fresh from his goal against Dartford for the first team at the weekend - Miles Mitchell-Nelson, Tommy Davis and Charlie Sayers having also featured for the senior squad during pre-season.
Indeed, a confident Stewart strode through the midfield in the eighth minute to unleash the first shot on goal, from 25 yards, only to steer the ball into the gloves of Mason. Seven minutes later he tried his luck again from distance and, although Mason couldn’t hold his daisycutter, he recovered his composure to gather at Akinola’s feet.
In-between, winger Demaray Anyadike had spurned an excellent opportunity to put the young Shrimpers in front. Bobby Unwin’s left-wing strike was pushed out by Mason to Anyadike on the edge of the six-yard box, but he directed his side-footed attempt wide of the right-hand post.
Midway through the opening period Unwin’s free-kick was teased into the penalty area and Mitchell-Nelson was agonisingly inches away from a crucial connection with an outstretched right foot.
Further openings followed, with Stewart’s rasping strike from a Reiss Chandler pass brilliantly turned over by Mason before Unwin curled narrowly wide with his unfavoured right foot. Unwin and Akinola then combined to set up Brown ten yards out, but he guided his shot straight at Mason.
Jon Benton also smashed over from range, but on the half-hour mark Blues finally took the lead. Anyadike purposefully made ground down the right flank, and he then squared the ball to Brown on the edge of the penalty area, whose skidding strike squirmed under Mason and into the net.
Late in the first half Unwin fired inches over and Akinola curled a set-piece similarly off-target following a foul on Stewart, whilst it was a measure of the pattern of play that Canvey’s first attempt arrived five minutes before the break with a dipping shot narrowly over.
Heath felt that Southend should’ve been well clear of their opponents at the interval: “It’s calmness in those areas of the pitch as you get closer to the goal that you need to either pass the ball into the goal or set somebody else for them to finish.”
“We were frustrated with the decision-making at times, but when the shots were taken there was poor technique, leaning back and shooting over the bar or straight at Bobby Mason so he had a comfortable save. The positive is that we’re getting into the right areas and creating the chances, but the money is made from taking those chances.”
The initial stages of the second half followed a familiar pattern. Reiss Chandler’s right-wing centre was deflected into the path of Stewart, 15 yards out, five minutes after the interval but he fired straight at Mason, who blocked with his legs.
Collin Andeng Ndi did turn away a fierce strike seconds later, but Blues were denied by the woodwork on 55 minutes when Akinola darted inside from the left touchline before smashing a thunderous attempt against the crossbar.
As the match approached the hour, Unwin flicked a Stewart cross into Mason’s gloves and a short corner routine led to Anyadike curling at the Canvey custodian from 25 yards out. A quarter-of-an-hour later, Canvey made Southend pay.
The ball was worked down the right-hand side and a clumsy challenge as the winger entered the penalty area led to the referee pointing to the spot. Hubble stepped up to send Andeng Ndi the wrong way from twelve yards out.
Stewart again arrowed a shot into Mason’s gloves from 25 yards out as Blues looked to respond, but they went behind with ten minutes remaining when the hosts engineered an opening for Ronto to curl a precise right-footed finish into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
“In the second half, in the first 10-15 minutes we were sharp and we worked the ball out into the wide areas, but it seemed to go flat,” reported Heath.
“We were still creating chances, but you felt that the longer we took to take one of those chances, it was going to lead to us being punished. You could sense it coming, but the game should’ve been dead and buried after 60 minutes, so it was disappointing.”
Southend United U23s: Collin Andeng Ndi, Reiss Chandler (Trialist, 89), Charlie Sayers, O’Shane Stewart, Tommy Davis (Luke Reeve, 64), Miles Mitchell-Nelson (Ergis Shala, 64), Demaray Anyadike (Trialist, 64), Cameron Brown, Simeon Akinola (Tendi Quamina, 64), Jon Benton (Jaden Crowhurst, 65), Bobby Unwin.
Goal: Brown (30).