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Cambridge United U18s 1-2 Southend United U18s, EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference, Clare College Sports Ground, Saturday 29th January 2022, Kick-Off: 11:00am.

2 February 2022

Southend United U18s moved up to second place in the EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference table with a hard-fought 2-1 win away to Cambridge United on Saturday.

Goals by Henry Sandat and Mo Amir ensured that Blues made it three consecutive competitive wins at the start of 2022 and edged Danny Heath’s side above their hosts at the weekend, with the Cambridge goal coming from the penalty spot midway through the second half.

“It was a tough game in tough conditions with the wind blowing,” explained Heath. “We played against the wind in the first half and we could’ve been better with the ball in developing play from our defensive third and our middle third.”

“We had done a lot of preparation on our shape against Cambridge and the box they play in midfield, meaning that there was more space outside on the flanks, but we could’ve made better decisions in that first half. We caused our own problems by playing in central areas.”

“However, we were a lot better in the second half and it was pleasing to see the boys find a way to win the game. To do that against a strong side that are in the last sixteen of The FA Youth Cup was something to take away from the game,” Heath added.

Southend took the lead ten minutes before the break when the ball was switched quickly from the left to the right-hand side and skipper Jaden Crowhurst unleashed a shot that was parried into the path of Sandat for a close-range tap-in.

“It was a good goal and it was nice to see the patterns we’d worked on in training during the week coming into play. We had spoken about the role of the two full-backs, Jaden and Louie Arrowsmith and how they could push on, and the goal came about as a result of some really good quality,” said Heath.

Blues could have doubled their advantage just before half-time when Brian Garzon regained possession in midfield and broke clear of the U’s defence, only to see his shot hit the inside of both posts before dropping into the goalkeeper’s gloves.

Cambridge then equalised from the penalty spot, despite Fin Purcell guessing correctly, but Southend responded quickly and Arrowsmith won a corner that Amir swung in directly from the quadrant, with the ball arcing over the goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net.

“We’ve got no complaints about their penalty, and Fin was unlucky as the shot went underneath his body, but it was a great response. We attacked straight from the kick-off and won a corner; apparently Mo had told the boys before the game he would score direct from a corner!”

“The boys fought hard to win the game. They were throwing themselves in front of the ball to block shots, making saves and goal-line clearances, and it showed how much they are prepared to fight for each other and for the badge. It’s a good mentality for them to show,” Heath added.

After a perfect January, Heath’s charges now have to wait until 18th February to complete their campaign away to Sutton United. AFC Wimbledon were crowned champions in midweek, meaning that the best the squad can achieve is the runners-up spot they currently occupy.

“The boys can be proud of the position they’ve got themselves into,” Heath claimed. “There’s one game to go and the message is that we want to finish second. We know that’s out of our hands to an extent with other teams having games in hand, but it’s the best we can do now.”

“It sums up our mentality that the boys have looked at some of the games earlier in the season and identified some that we could’ve won – home and away against Gillingham and at home to Wimbledon – and they feel we could’ve won the league.”

“We could’ve been top now, and the boys have to understand that those points they have dropped could be the difference between a championship or a play-off place, or avoiding relegation, when it comes to first-team football, and that’s the importance we place on their mentality.”

Southend United U18s: Fin Purcell, Jaden Crowhurst, Louie Arrowsmith, Callum Burkey, Luke Reeve, Harrison Clayden, Mo Amir, Brian Garzon, Tayo Adedoja, Henry Sandat (Jacob Bland, 75), Omari Williams. Unused substitutes: Alfie Bangs, Patrick Droney, Mitch Fallows, Joe Shenouda.

Goals: Sandat (35), Amir (70).

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