Cameron Brown scored a last-minute winner to earn Southend United U23s a 1-0 triumph over Luton Town in a friendly on Tuesday afternoon.
Midfielder Brown managed to beat the Luton goalkeeper to Henry Sandat’s through-ball as time was about to expire and stab a low finish into the unguarded net after a determined performance from Danny Heath’s squad.
“I’m really pleased for Cam,” declared Heath. “There was maybe a question mark about whether he was offside from Luton’s point of view, but we could see he was a couple of yards onside. I felt he got the ball.”
“Fair play to the goalkeeper and Cam because they both went in fully-committed and, on that occasion, Cam came out on top. Sometimes you have to put your body on the line to get your just rewards.”
Neither side threatened a goal during the opening period, with a Luton attacker half-volleying over in the eighth minute and central defender Jimmy Wallace nodding a Jon Benton free-kick over after a quarter-of-an-hour at the other end.
Blues played without a recognised forward, with Jon Benton, Oli Coker and Harry Phillips interchanging in a central role, and the trio combined in the 34th minute when a Phillips cross was laid off by Coker to Benton, who saw his attempt charged down.
The first half ended with a Luton attack, with a left-footed shot slashed wide. Terrell Egbri - who is currently on loan at Farnborough - was withdrawn at half-time and replaced by second-year scholar Callum Burkey.
A right-wing Luton cross was glanced wide on 50 minutes, but openings were still at a premium three minutes later when Coker and Benton exchanged passes before Coker fired over from 20 yards out.
Coker, who continued his rehabilitation from a back injury, was replaced by Omari Williams - a goalscorer for the U18s on Sunday - on 71 minutes, shortly after Reiss Chandler had found Benton to enable a fierce shot from 25 yards out that was deflected over.
As the match entered the final 20 minutes, it finally opened up and a fizzing Luton shot flew over before Harry Phillips drew the first save of the match from the Luton goalkeeper in the 78th minute after being fed down the right-hand side of the penalty area.
Benton then combined with Sandat before seeing his attempt repelled by the legs of the visiting custodian, whilst Blues substitute Patrick Droney did well to track the run of a forward before diverting his shot wide.
Wallace cleared a dangerous corner in his own penalty area in the 86th minute before becoming a threat at the opposite end as he met an inswinging Williams corner, only to direct his aerial effort over from six yards out.
There was still time for Blues to snatch the victory through Brown’s sheer determination to get to the ball first, and Southend saw out a prolonged spell of stoppage time after the goalkeeper was helped off the pitch having sustained an injury in his attempts to clear his lines.
“We spoke to the boys before the game because whenever you play Luton, at whatever age group it is, to have any sort of chance of getting something from the game you have to be at your best to compete with them,” said Heath.
“I thought we were good. I felt we could’ve been better in patches, especially in terms of taking chances and scoring more goals, but their goalkeeper is very good. We could’ve found more space in front of goal and showed more composure.”
“From a defensive point of view you’ve got to battle, you’ve got to put your foot in and compete from a physical perspective, and there were times where we were making tackles and getting blocks in to keep it 0-0.”
Southend United U23s: Trialist, Reiss Chandler, Mitch Fallows (Patrick Droney, 64), Jacob Bland (Henry Sandat, 81), Trialist (Habib Bolarinwa, 81), Jimmy Wallace, Terrell Egbri (Callum Burkey, 46), Cameron Brown, Jon Benton, Oli Coker (Omari Williams, 71), Harry Phillips.