A late equaliser by first-year forward Max Fiddes earned Southend United U18s a 1-1 draw away to Aveley College in their latest pre-season friendly on Wednesday morning.
Fiddes, who scored six goals last season as a schoolboy for the U18s, was on target with just two minutes remaining to rescue a share of the spoils for Danny Heath’s squad after their hosts had taken the lead five minutes earlier.
However, on another hot day in south Essex, it was little more than Blues deserved after creating a number of opportunities during the second half. The result built on a high-tempo performance against Ipswich Town in the club’s opening friendly at the weekend.
Heath started the match with just two second-year scholars in the form of full-backs Habib Bolarinwa and Mitch Fallows, and it was Aveley that made the better start as a left-footed shot struck the top of Luke Cerullo’s crossbar in just the fourth minute.
There were four trialists in the teenage Shrimpers side, and one of that cohort set up midfielder Alfie Terry - who was captaining the side - in the 17th minute. The midfielder could only pick out the home goalkeeper’s gloves with his shot.
A second trialist fired wide from a well-directed Habib Bolarinwa cross just after the half-hour mark before he set up another trialist for a header straight at the goalkeeper. That was his final action of the match as he was replaced by Fiddes on 36 minutes.
The 16-year-old front-man didn’t take long to line-up his opening attempt, sending a looping left-footed strike inches over in the 42nd minute before Alfie Bangs drilled an effort wide from long-range just seconds later.
Blues had ended the opening period strongly, and Fiddes was involved from the outset during the second half as he spotted the goalkeeper off his line and sent a 40-yard attempted lob over in the 48th minute.
A fine delivery by Bangs picked out Fiddes three minutes later but, as the striker went to ground, his appeals for a penalty were waved away by the referee. Another superb ball by Bangs in the 56th minute was laid off by Fiddes to a trialist, who saw a seemingly certain goal repelled by the Aveley goalkeeper.
The same trialist saw another effort saved by the over-worked custodian a couple of moments later, with a Fiddes header from another Bangs centre comfortably saved in-between, before Heath made a raft of changes and introduced second-year scholars Fin Purcell, Ibrahim Kamara, Mo Amir, Jacob Bland and Omari Williams.
It took a little while for those players to get up-to-speed, and by the time Bland had gone close with a long-range shot, it was time for the referee to signal for the second drinks break of the day.
Amir fired narrowly wide after running fully sixty yards when an Aveley attack was broken up with a quarter-of-an-hour to play, but the home side had a rare sight of goal two minutes later and a forward should have broken the deadlock when he scuffed wide from a corner.
Defender Smai Norman nodded wide from an Amir corner in the 81st minute and, when Williams drew a parried stop from the goalkeeper shortly afterwards, the rebound was begging for a white shirt to tap home.
Instead, that chance passed and Aveley switched play immediately to the opposite end, where an attacker directed his shot beyond Purcell to put the hosts in front.
Immediately from the restart Fiddes fired over, but the first-half substitute was to make no mistake in the 88th minute as he bundled the ball home from close-range to contribute a last-gasp equaliser.
Blues take on Category Two Academy Colchester United away from home on Saturday before continuing their pre-season preparations with the visit of Category One Academy Norwich City to Boots & Laces on Tuesday.
Southend United U18s: Luke Cerullo (Fin Purcell, 60), Habib Bolarinwa (Ibrahim Kamara, 60), Mitch Fallows (Bolarinwa, 79), Smai Norman, Romeo Ebondo, Alfie Bangs (Mo Amir, 60), Alfie Terry (Bangs, 79), Trialist A (Omari Williams, 60), Trialist B (Max Fiddes, 36), Trialist C (Jacob Bland, 60), Trialist D.
Goal: Fiddes (88).