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Southend United U18s 1-2 Northampton Town U18s

Southend United U18s 1-2 Northampton Town U18s, EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference, Boots & Laces, Saturday 11th December 2021, Kick-Off 11:00am

13 December 2021

Southend United’s inconsistent form in the EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference continued with a 2-1 home defeat to Northampton Town on Saturday morning, despite an impressive debut by U15s goalkeeper Charlie Brown.

Blues U18s were unable to build on a 3-0 success away to Leyton Orient in their previous fixture as Brian Garzon’s deflected strike three minutes before half-time was overturned in the second period by a brace by Cobblers forward Jack Connor. 

However, there was a massive positive for the teenage Shrimpers in the form of goalkeeper Brown, who stepped up from the U15s to make his youth team debut after illness ruled out Fin Purcell and injures to U16s Luke Curullo and Max Spence meant they were also unavailable. 

Brown, who has only been at the club for a month after joining from Eastern Junior Alliance side Canvey Island, made a string of fine saves throughout the match to keep his team in the game and belie his tender years.  

“Charlie only got told this morning that he would be playing for the youth team, and he took it all in his stride,” said youth team coach Danny Heath. “If it wasn’t for him making two good saves in the first half and then three or four at the start of the second half, we could’ve lost by more. He had no chance with either of the goals.” 

The only other change to the starting line-up was third-year scholar Ergis Shala stepping in for the injured Luke Reeve at centre-back. If Brown did have any nerves out his late call-up, he didn’t show them in the opening stages in claiming a simple cross and then coming off his line to scoop up the ball.  

Northampton had knocked Southend out of the EFL Youth Alliance Cup earlier in the season, and they started the better team with Shala outmuscling Kenny Ndefo to win the ball in the fourth minute and then fouling the same opponent to earn a yellow card four minutes later.  

Blues were struggling to trouble their visitors early on, and it was not until the 12th minute that captain Jaden Crowhurst drew a good save from goalkeeper Charlie Woods with a first-time strike from 25 yards out.  

Brown was called into action in earnest for the first time in the 20th minute when Miguel Ngwa - who had earlier seen a right-wing centre cut out by Crowhurst - teamed up with Connor to set up Ndefo, and the young gloveman stood up well to push the shot over the bar at the near post.  

Just before the half-hour mark the former Pegasus Youth and East Thurrock United goalkeeper made another excellent stop, this time with his legs to block Connor’s attempt after Ethan Lack’s through-ball had prized open the Blues back-line.  

The hosts finally began to build some momentum inside the final ten minutes of the first half. Woods was forced into a good stop with his legs to deny Tayo Adedoja from Louis Arrowsmith’s left-wing cross, and the same combination ended with the forward nodding wide on 39 minutes.  

Three minutes later Crowhurst’s long throw was flicked on by Shala, with Adedoja and Henry Sandat both denied by blocks on the goal-line before the skipper propelled the ball into the box once more and this time Garzon’s effort from Shala’s cushioned knock-down was deflected into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.  

Brown made a comfortable save from a close-range Ndefo header just before the interval, and Blues would have felt confident of building on their advantage after the break. Indeed, Arrowsmith drew a fine save from Woods within seconds of the restart with a stinging shot from the edge of the penalty area. 

But Northampton came out for the second half with renewed purpose and Brown was soon called upon to make a good save from Ngwa’s side-footed attempt after he had been found by Lack in the penalty area.  

Better was to follow in the 48th minute when the youngster raced off his line to foil Ndefo, first with his feet and then by dropping on the loose ball. And, when the Cobblers came forward again seconds later, he made a full-length save to deny Connor.  

When Northampton captain Peter Abimbola sliced wide in the 53rd minute, it looked as though Southend might have ridden out the storm but, after Arrowsmith had smashed wide at the other end, Connor stroked the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the net after being released to advance into the penalty area in the 65th minute.  

Heath made a double substitution on 77 minutes, introducing Omari Williams and schoolboy Freddie Buers for Callum Burkey and Sandat, but sixty seconds later Northampton edged ahead through Connor, who hooked a superb volley into the net from 25 yards out after the ball had dropped over his shoulder.  

Southend did press forward in search of an equaliser with Adedoja narrowly failing to connect with Amir’s 84th minute pass and Buers steering over at the far post, and Arrowsmith chipping over with his right foot in stoppage time.  

Blues had failed to earn a share of the spoils, and Heath was frustrated after the match: “Full credit to Northampton,” he said. “I felt they played the conditions better than us, so it was disappointing. Even before they scored their first goal, I felt it was coming.”  

“We’ve got five games left; they’re coming thick-and-fast, which means from the players’ point of view they’re going to be gone quickly. The last game against Orient was a good performance, but a couple before that were up-and-down, and we’ve not built on that Orient performance,” he mused.  

Southend United U18s: Charlie Brown, Jaden Crowhurst, Louie Arrowsmith, Jacob Bland, Ergis Shala, Patrick Droney, Mo Amir, Henry Sandat (Freddie Buers, 77), Tayo Adedoja, Callum Burkey (Omari Williams, 77), Brian Garzon. Unused substitutes: Joe Shenouda, Harrison Clayden. 

Goals:Garzon (42). 

Cautioned: Shala (8, foul tackle), Arrowsmith (76, foul tackle), Amir (90, foul tackle). 

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