Second-year striker Tayo Adedoja played a key part in Southend United’s 1-1 draw with Stevenage U18s at Boots & Laces on Saturday by setting up Tommy Lambourne’s goal, but he acknowledged that the squad were disappointed not to claim all three points.
Blues had the better of the EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference encounter, but Harry Giroud’s leveller with eleven minutes remaining meant the two sides had to settle for a share of the spoils. Adedoja was frustrated after the final whistle.
“We were the better side and we dominated the ball for the 90 minutes, but we didn’t take enough of our chances,” he said. “We scored one goal, but they only had one shot, which they scored, and we should’ve put the game to bed earlier.”
“It was frustrating. We all know we should’ve scored more goals to win the game and get the three points. It’s consistency. We need to know that we’re going to score goals every week because sometimes we’ll score three, four or five and the next week we’ll struggle to score two.”
“We all know we can do it. It’s calmness in front of goal and decision-making that we need to get better at,” he added.
Stevenage began the game on the front foot and Max Bustamante was inches away from connecting with Kwadwo Buggei-Kyei’s left-wing centre in the third minute before Lambourne’s third goal of the season sixty seconds later put Blues in front.
The move started with goalkeeper Fin Purcell at the back and moved through the thirds with skipper Jaden Crowhurst picking out Adedoja on the right flank. He beat Stevenage defender Ben Siggers before hoisting a cross to the far post where Lambourne contorted his body to volley home in mid-air from close range.
“I was in the corner and I saw Lamby at the back post and I thought stick it up there as I know he’d good in the air. It was a good ball and a good finish as well. I like playing alongside him because Lamby is a third-year and he understands the game,” Adedoja recalled.
The forward himself got away from Freddie Stanley in the seventh minute before drawing a good low save from Jack Burman in the Stevenage goal, but Southend would need to wait a further twenty minutes before Callum Burkey fired narrowly wide from Crowhurst’s short free-kick.
The first half was staccato in its nature, with a number of fouls breaking up the play. Blues lacked fluency, but they did carve out the better chances and Adedoja cut across a shot on the half-hour before Burman denied the Basildon-based forward from Burkey’s pass with a fingertip save.
Central defender Luke Reeve nodded over from the resultant Crowhurst corner, and the opening period ended with Reeve again meeting a delivery from the skipper, with Buggei-Kyei this time heading off the goal-line to keep the lead manageable for the visitors.
Lambourne failed to make a telling contact with Mo Amir’s right-wing corner shortly after the restart, and three minutes later Stevenage custodian Burman made a fine save to turn away Crowhurst’s free-kick following a foul on Henry Sandat 25 yards from goal.
Blues were in the ascendancy, and they began to ramp up the pressure with Amir teeing up Crowhurst overlapping on the right-hand side for a wayward attempt in the 52nd minute before Burkey’s effort was charged down from a Lambourne pass.
Stevenage responded with defender Habib Bolarinwa getting a vital touch to Bustamante’s cross to take it away from a visiting attacker before Harry Gilzean’s shot was charged down on the edge of the penalty area. Shortly after the hour mark, Purcell gathered Buggei-Kyei’s angled strike.
Lewis Lynn smashed over from distance midway through the second half, and Reeve and Bolarinwa combined to block substitute Finlay Johnson’s route towards goal before Blues hit back with Lambourne crossing for Sandat, who couldn’t quite turn home at the far post in the 73rd minute.
The first-year scholar then drew a save from Burman with a well-struck effort from the edge of the ‘D’ sixty seconds later before turning provider for Louie Arrowsmith down the left in the 78th minute. His shot appeared destined for the bottom right-hand corner until Burman made a brilliant save at full-stretch.
Within a minute, Stevenage were level. Bustamante was released down the inside-left channel and his centre was laid back into the path of Giroud, who picked his spot from around ten yards out and swept the ball into the top right-hand corner of the net.
The game was stretched and either side could have nicked the victory late on; Amir curled over from the edge of the penalty area with four minutes remaining and Bustamante fired over in the third minute of stoppage time, but ultimately neither side could find a winner.
The result keeps Blues ahead of their opponents in the league table, situated in fourth position but just three points behind second-placed Cambridge United. Adedoja believes there’s more to come from the teenage Shrimpers, and he’s also keen to push on personally.
Having appeared on the first team bench last season, and played three times at Roots Hall in The FA Youth Cup this term, he’s eager to sample that again: “We’re doing alright in the league. We’ve dropped points and we know that, but we’ve got more games to go and we want to pick up more wins,” he declared.
“I’ve been at Southend since the U9s. It’s been a long time, and I really liked going on tour and when we faced the big teams like Manchester City. That was a great experience, seeing the facilities and life they lead.”
“It was good to play so much for the U23s last season. It gives me the hunger to step up again and hopefully I’ll be with the U23s more this season. I want to play for Southend and I’ve been involved in first-team squads before.”
“I want to make my debut and hopefully that comes soon. I was on the bench at Colchester in the EFL Trophy and then against Forest Green Rovers. It was a good experience. It’s something you dream of, and seeing the other players makes you feel like you want to be there when you’re older,” he added.
Southend United U18s: Fin Purcell, Jaden Crowhurst, Louie Arrowsmith, Jacob Bland, Luke Reeve, Habib Bolarinwa, Mo Amir, Henry Sandat, Tayo Adedoja, Callum Burkey, Tommy Lambourne. Unused substitutes: Ibrahim Kamara, Brian Garzon, Joe Shenouda, Omari Williams, Patrick Droney.
Goal: Lambourne (4).