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Enfield Town 2-1 Southend United U23s, Friendly, Queen Elizabeth II Stadium, Tuesday 5th April 2022, Kick-Off 7:45pm

6 April 2022

Southend United U23s were defeated 2-1 by Enfield Town in a friendly on Tuesday evening, despite taking the lead through a superb Jack Wood strike.

The former King’s Langley player dispatched an unstoppable 25-yard shot into the top right-hand corner of the net seven minutes after half-time, but it was quickly cancelled out by Towners substitute Busunda before Jake Cass netted the winner just after the hour mark. 

"Jack was excellent," said U23s coach Danny Heath after the match. "He scored a superb goal and then he put in a great little pass for Tayo shortly afterwards. Tayo did everything right, but the defender did well to clear.

"It was a good game between two good teams. They had a couple of players missing from their first-choice line-up, but it was good to have a competitive game. We didn’t deserve to win, but we probably didn’t deserve to lose, either, and it’s a good learning curve for the lads as – when it’s first-team level and it’s careers and livelihoods on the line – it’s about getting a result," he added.

Wood was joined in the starting line-up for Heath’s side by goalkeeper Collin Andeng Ndi and defender Tommy Davis, who recently appeared on the first-team bench for the first time in a league game for the fixture away to Maidenhead United. 

At the other end of the spectrum, first-year scholars Omari Williams and Jacob Bland were also handed starts, with schoolboy Max Fiddes on the bench alongside a further five first-years. 

Andeng Ndi was called into action as early as the fourth minute when he stood tall to block Cass’ shot with his right leg after the forward had been put clear one-on-one. Six minutes later Davis - named as captain for the evening - blocked another Cass effort after former Shrimper Lyle Della Verde’s cross had caused problems for the Blues back-line. 

At the other end Wood looked the most likely to trouble Enfield goalkeeper Adi Connolly as a curling 25-yard attempt required the custodian’s full attention in the eleventh minute. Sixty seconds later Connolly made an even more important intervention, tipping a long-range free-kick from Wood onto the right-hand upright. 

Andeng Ndi made a comfortable save from Della Verde’s shot on 19 minutes, but Blues were beginning to grow into the game and Miles Mitchell-Nelson warmed the gloves of Connolly on the half-hour mark with a deflected shot from the right-hand apex of the penalty area. 

Williams, who - like Demaray Anyadike - was employed in an unfamiliar wing-back role, linked up well with Tayo Adedoja and Wood five minutes later to set up Eren Kinali, but the Hendon loanee saw his effort charged down by a defender and cleared. 

Blues went close a couple more times at the end of the opening period, with Adedoja getting across his marker to meet Wood’s left-wing centre and Cameron Brown fizzing an effort across the six-yard box after drifting in from the left-hand side, but both attempts went narrowly wide. 

However, Wood put Southend in front early in the second half with a strike of real quality. Receiving the ball 30 yards out from Brown, he advanced a few paces in a diagonal manner to engineer some space and then sent his left-footed shot sweetly into the top right-hand corner of the net from just outside the ‘D’. 

Blues may have expected to push on from there, but their hosts responded within six minutes to draw level. A through-ball split open the defence and substitute Busunda angled his finish across Andeng Ndi and into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal. 

Two minutes later, the Towners were in front with the ball nestling in exactly the same spot. Cass was the goalscorer, bringing down a lofted pass with his chest before spinning and firing clinically into the net. 

Within a couple of minutes, Blues could have restored parity. Wood spotted a gap to thread an exquisite reverse pass through for Adedoja, and he rode a challenge before rounding Connolly. Having been sent wide, the second-year scholar stroked goalwards from an acute angle and a defender implausibly got back to thump a clearance against the right-hand post and away. 

Heath sent on Brian Garzon, Henry Sandat and, later, Fiddes in a raft of attacking changes, but the closest the visitors would come to a leveller was a header by Kinali from ten yards out that skimmed the top of the crossbar. 

"We knew we’d have to compete, and I think on the whole we did that," Heath claimed. "Sometimes we got out-muscled and for the first 15-20 minutes they were on top, but Collin made some good saves and, once we settled, we saw more of the ball.

"We played some good stuff, but the disappointing thing was that, for the first 15-20 minutes of the second half, we stopped doing what we had been doing at the end of the first. We didn’t do the simple things right, and that led to both of their goals.

"Thanks to Ian Hart for giving the boys the chance to play against an experienced Isthmian League side. They are third in the Premier Division table and might be in National League South next season, so it was a great experience for the boys to play a good team under the lights.

"Enfield Town are fighting for three points every week, and these sorts of games are great for the development of the lads. We like to give them some variety and play Academy teams as well, and that presents different challenges for the players,” he concluded. 

Southend United U23s: Collin Andeng Ndi, Miles Mitchell-Nelson, Omari Williams (Habib Bolarinwa, 70), Jacob Bland (Brian Garzon, 70), Tommy Davis, Jimmy Wallace, Demaray Anyadike (Henry Sandat, 70), Cameron Brown (Max Fiddes, 84), Eren Kinali, Jack Wood, Tayo Adedoja. Unused substitutes: Fin Purcell, Ibrahim Kamara, Mo Amir, Harrison Clayden. 

Goal: Wood (52). 

Cautioned: Brown (72, dissent). 

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