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Southend United U18s 3-2 Luton Town U18s, EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference, Boots & Laces, Saturday 15th January 2022, Kick-Off: 11:00am.

18 January 2022

Southend United U18s twice fought back from one-goal deficits before registering an enthralling 3-2 victory over Luton Town at Boots & Laces on Saturday morning.

Omari Williams and Cameron Brown equalised for the teenage Shrimpers during an entertaining EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference encounter, and Henry Sandat netted a dramatic winner with only four minutes remaining for Danny Heath’s side. 

The result was crucial for Blues, who moved up to third place in the league table and consolidated their top-half position with just two away games - against Cambridge United and Sutton United - remaining in the opening portion of the season. 

Heath named schoolboy Max Fiddes in the starting line-up as a reward for scoring the winner against Milton Keynes Dons seven days earlier, and he featured in a three-man attack alongside Williams and third-year Tommy Lambourne as Heath mirrored the 3-4-3 formation utilised at first-team level. 

Defender Harrison Clayden made his first start of the season after suffering an injury before the campaign began, lining up alongside Luke Reeve and Patrick Droney. Jaden Crowhurst and Louie Arrowsmith flanked Brown and Brian Garzon with Fin Purcell in goal. 

There was some doubt initially as to whether the match could take place as Boots & Laces was enveloped in thick fog, but the low cloud lifted sufficiently for the match officials to allow kick-off at the scheduled 11:00am. 

Fiddes was involved early on, trying to thread the ball through to Williams in the first minute, only for the goalkeeper to come off his line to gather. In the seventh minute the visiting custodian made a good near-post stop to keep out a fierce Williams strike after the winger had progressed down the left flank. 

In between those openings for the hosts, Purcell had been called into action for Blues, making a comfortable save from a 20-yard shot before diving low to his right to keep out another Hatters attempt. 

Luton were beginning to build some momentum, and a 25-yard shot was deflected wide of the right-hand post after a quarter-of-an-hour before Purcell saved again at his near post in the 17th minute and another attempt was nodded over by an attacker following a deep free-kick. 

The opening exchanges had appeared to be even in composition, but Luton were causing problems for Southend with a high press and Luke Reeve escaped when his challenge midway through the first half led to loud appeals for a penalty, which were waved away. 

The Hatters flashed a shot wide from a right-wing centre and, although Lambourne’s effort from a Fiddes through-ball was pushed around the post on the half-hour, Luton took the lead on 36 minutes when they won the ball high up the pitch and a well-struck effort at the far post flew beyond Purcell. 

Luton had a second goal ruled out for offside four minutes before half-time, and Blues were relieved to get in at the interval just one goal behind. Heath decided to make changes to personnel and formation, introducing Tayo Adedoja and Sandat in place of Droney and Fiddes. 

Despite that, Purcell had to make another good stop in the opening sixty seconds of the second period and it wasn’t until the 56th minute that Brown fired wide from distance after play had opened up in front of him. Six minutes later Williams saw his 25-yard strike deflected into the gloves of the Luton goalkeeper. 

However, with a greater foothold in midfield, Southend were now on top and they levelled on 64 minutes after Arrowsmith won the ball in his own penalty area and found Sandat on the right touchline. He moved the ball on to Garzon and the superb move was completed when Williams lashed a stunning strike into the top right-hand corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area. 

It was, therefore, disappointing that Blues found themselves behind again just four minutes later. Luton earned a set-piece in Southend territory and the ball was swept underneath Purcell and into the bottom right-hand corner of the net from 15 yards out. 

Things could have got worse for Blues a couple of minutes later, but Clayden made an outstanding challenge in the six-yard box to thwart an attacker as he bore down on goal and, from that point forward, Southend were in control of the game, even if the scoreline did not reflect that. 

Lambourne’s effort was deflected wide before Garzon thumped off-target from the edge of the penalty area with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining. Brown also sliced wide after an excellent right-wing delivery as the match approached the final ten minutes. 

With his next attempt on goal, the third-year midfielder would not be so profligate. A Williams corner flew across the face of goal and was retrieved by Clayden at the far post. The ball was then recycled into the penalty area and kept alive by Adedoja before Brown picked his spot and took a touch before curling into the top left-hand corner of the net to equalise. 

Four minutes later, Blues notched the crucial go-ahead goal. Again the move started with a Williams corner, which was punched clear to Crowhurst on the halfway line. The skipper’s angled delivery was perfect for Sandat, who sprung the offside trap and contorted his body to steer his finish inside the far post. 

Blues celebrated wildly, but Purcell and Clayden both made vital blocks in the dying moments of the match to keep Southend ahead. And, although Garzon smashed over and Sandat and Adedoja were denied in stoppage time, Heath’s side had done enough to claim the three points. 

Southend United U18s: Fin Purcell, Harrison Clayden, Louie Arrowsmith, Cameron Brown, Luke Reeve, Patrick Droney (Henry Sandat, 46), Jaden Crowshurst, Brian Garzon, Tommy Lambourne, Omari Williams, Max Fiddes (Tayo Adedoja, 46). Unused substitutes: Mo Amir, Mitch Fallows, Joe Shenouda. 

Goals: Williams (64), Brown (82), Sandat (86).

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