Southend United U23s coaches Mark Moss and Danny Heath were pleased with a professional performance from their squad in a 6-0 friendly win over Great Wakering Rovers on Tuesday evening.
Blues disposed of their Isthmian League North Division opponents thanks to goals by Jon Benton, Eren Kinali (2), Bobby Unwin and substitutes Zayn Bux and Tendi Quamina, and Moss was impressed with the way they went about their job.
"It was a good performance," he said. "It’s a difficult place to come, it’s a difficult pitch and I thought the boys played really well, especially in the first half. They moved the ball well and scored some really good goals.
"We restricted them to two shots, and that’s the most important thing. If you keep clean sheets and you’re defensively solid you’re not going to lose games. I’m happy with that side of it as well.
"It was difficult to pull individual performances out because the team was so good. It was a collective performance and the substitutes that came on were up to the same level," he added.
Southend took the lead at Burroughs Park in just the second minute through former Wakering loanee Benton, who collected the ball 25 yards out and slammed an unstoppable strike into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Second-year scholar Callum Burkey drew a fine save from the Wakering goalkeeper nine minutes later with a well-struck effort from a similar distance, but the young Shrimpers didn’t have to wait long to extend their advantage as Kinali latched onto Louie Arrowsmith’s through-ball and stabbed home from ten yards out.
Cameron Brown - who also featured as a late substitute in a behind closed doors friendly against Welling United earlier in the day - hooked over from Demaray Anyadike’s right-wing centre, but Unwin was on hand in the 20th minute to glance home a Kinali cross from the left flank to make it 3-0.
There was some good defensive work in the 26th minute by Miles Mitchell-Nelson, who was skippering the side, and Jaden Crowhurst - playing in an unfamiliar right-back role - to prevent Wakering getting a sight of Jamie Grossart’s goal and play immediately switched to the other end, where Benton fizzed an effort over from Arrowsmith’s pass.
Playmaker Benton then found Anyadike 25 yards out, only for the winger to steer a shot straight at the goalkeeper, who was extended further by a strong drive from distance by Kinali shortly after the half-hour mark.
Blues were creating chances at will and Mitchell-Nelson nodded wide from Benton’s corner in the 34th minute before Kinali dragged a shot wide of the left-hand upright after springing the offside trap to advance one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Kinali, who played through the middle rather than in a wide position, with Unwin and Anyadike occupying those roles, added his second goal seven minutes before the break after exchanging passes with Benton on the edge of the penalty area and outmuscling a defender to poke home.
Although Wakering sent a shot narrowly wide in the 40th minute, Kinali had a couple of opportunities to complete his hat-trick before being withdrawn at half-time, nodding Anyadike’s cross over and then slipping as he angled Benton’s through-ball wide.
Blues had dictated play in the opening period, and they continued to do so after the interval although, after Brown’s half-volley from another Arrowsmith cross had been saved, it took some time for them to hit their stride and recover their rhythm.
Arrowsmith was involved again just before the hour, exchanging passes with Quamina before firing over, and Benton was similarly wayward a couple of moments later. Meanwhile, the introduction of forward Tommy Lambourne for Burkey meant a change of shape for the visitors.
Quamina nodded wide from a Bux cross in the 70th minute before Benton and Lambourne were both denied by blocks following a neat reverse pass from the third-year forward. Benton warmed the gloves of the goalkeeper from distance shortly afterwards and Lambourne’s skidding strike was also gathered by the home custodian as the pressure intensified.
Further efforts by Quamina and Brown were narrowly off-target before Bux scored the fifth goal of the evening with five minutes remaining after good work from Lambourne. The winger anticipated a left-wing centre and got across his marker to steer the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.
The scoring was completed two minutes later when Quamina was alert to the rebound after Wakering substitute shotstopper had palmed an effort from Trialist A into his path. Southend’s own replacement gloveman, Fin Purcell, then comfortably saved a shot from the edge of the penalty area to round off the evening’s action.
"Jon Benton’s goal was an excellent goal; that was an individual one, but the others were more team goals, and in the second half it was about managing the tempo of the game really and waiting for opportunities to open up, which they did towards the end, and we took them,” reported Moss.
"All-round, collectively, they’ve put in a good performance tonight, which is a massive positive. I don’t think there was an individual that stood out, but as a team they were solid,” added co-coach Heath.
"If we were being critical, then in the second half we’d’ve liked to have scored more goals for the areas were got into, but to score six goals against any team is a massive positive."
Southend United U23s: Jamie Grossart (Fin Purcell, 75), Jaden Crowhurst, Louie Arrowsmith, Callum Burkey (Tommy Lambourne, 56), Luke Reeve (Habib Bolarinwa, 46), Miles Mitchell-Nelson, Demaray Anyadike (Zayn Bux, 65), Cameron Brown, Eren Kinali (Tendi Quamina, 46), Jon Benton (Trialist B, 75), Bobby Unwin (Trialist A, 75).
Goal: Benton (2), Kinali (13, 38), Unwin (20), Bux (85), Quamina (87).
*Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Academy, Blues U18s were beaten 3-1 away to EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference leaders AFC Wimbledon on Saturday morning. Less than 40 hours after the FA Youth Cup defeat to Cambridge United, Southend took the lead through Tommy Lambourne and could have extended that in the early stages before fading later on.