Southend United U18s bounced back from an opening day defeat to record an emphatic 4-0 triumph over Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday morning.
Sam Ratcliff scored twice in the opening period and Tayo Adedoja and Jaden Crowhurst both converted penalties after the break as the teenage Shrimpers registered their first EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference victory of the campaign.
"It was a dominant performance,” declared youth team coach Danny Heath. "The boys were good from the first minute to the last. In possession I felt we dominated the ball and played some really good football going forwards. We created numerous goalscoring opportunities.
"Out of possession we identified maybe we could go on the full press to win the ball high up the pitch. We did that on a number of occasions and it helped us to create even more goalscoring opportunities,” he added.
There were two changes from the first match of the season as Sam Ratcliff, who played a big part in Southend’s consolation goal against Gillingham, was handed a start in place of Louie Rodmell, whilst Omari Williams came in for Mitch Fallows, with Louie Arrowsmith reverting to full-back.
It was Ratcliff who made the early impression, netting twice inside the first 20 minutes to put Blues 2-0 up, and Heath believed it was no more than the first-year winger deserved.
"Sam has come in and done well in pre-season and he was a little unlucky not to start the first game of the season against Gillingham,” he explained. "Every day his attitude is spot-on; he’s a great lad off the pitch and he’s got that willingness to do his best for the team.
"He got his head down and worked hard in training last week, and when you do that, you get your rewards. He scored a couple, but he had one or two other opportunities to get goals as well, so it was a really solid performance from him."
In the second half, both goals came from the penalty spot as a result of fouls on Adedoja, with the front man converting one and then stepping aside to allow youth team skipper Crowhurst to atone for his saved spot-kick in the first league game and apply some additional sheen to the success.
"We spoke at half-time about getting about MK Dons high up the pitch because we felt if we could regain the ball, they had tended in the first half to give away quite a lot of fouls,” said Heath.
"We identified getting on the press and trying to win the ball high up the pitch. Both goals came from us winning the ball in the penalty box and getting the foul.”
However, despite an emphatic display on the road and a clean sheet for the defence, Heath immediately turned his attention to this weekend’s EFL Youth Alliance Cup First Round encounter away to Stevenage.
"Losing is a part of football, but no footballer wants to lose,” he said. “Their response, and their attitude and their work ethic day-in, day-out in training meant I felt they would get their rewards sooner rather than later.
"But like losing is a part of football, so is winning, and now we’ve dealt with losing that first game of the season, we’ve had the high of beating MK Dons and the lads have got to work in training because that game has now gone.
"The focus is on Saturday, which is a Cup game, it’s a one-off game and it’s an opportunity to get into the next round. The target as a group is to win the Youth Alliance Cup; it’s a challenge they’re capable of achieving, but they’ve got to make sure they put the work in.”
Southend United U18s: Fin Purcell, Ibrahim Kamara (Habib Bolarinwa, 83), Louie Arrowsmith, Jaden Crowhurst, Luke Reeve, Patrick Droney, Sam Ratcliff (Joe Shenouda, 68), Mo Amir (Jacob Bland, 83), Tayo Adedoja, Brian Garzon (Henry Sandat, 75), Omari Williams. Unused substitute: Mitch Fallows.
Goals: Ratcliff (2). Adedoja (pen), Crowhurst (pen).