Southend United may have ended pre-season with a 2-1 defeat to National League South side Concord Rangers, but the Blues boss was delighted with the display his youthful line-up produced at Thames Road.
Kevin Maher made 11 changes to the side that lost to Crystal Palace u21s the night before, with academy players Henry Sandat and Max Fiddes leading the line, and it was Fiddes who scored after just 10 minutes to give Southend an early lead.
The game was halted in the first half after Jayden Randell suffered a horrific injury which led to the Concord man being taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg, but in his absence, the Beachboys turned the game around with second half penalties from Danny Green and Ben Williamson.
Despite the defeat, Maher had nothing but praise for his young side as he spoke to the press following the full-time whistle.
“I thought they were brilliant, I thought all of them were outstanding,” said Maher.
“To come to a team just a level below, a physical men's team, they coped with that especially well first half when we were on top and dominated the ball a lot, and had chances.
“I was delighted with all of them. The two young lads up front [Max Fiddes and Henry Sandat] worked their socks off and showed good quality, so I’m really pleased with everyone.”
As mentioned by Maher, Blues started the game with two players from their under-18s side leading the line as Max Fiddes and Henry Sandat started up front.
And Fiddes marked his first first-team appearance with a goal after just 10 minutes, finishing off a nice flowing move from Blues to the delight of Maher.
“It was a good goal as well. Tom Davis has stepped out with the ball and we managed to slide Jayden [Crowhurst] in, and [Fiddes] couldn’t miss from there really. It was a good move and finished off.
“Really pleased with him, and Henry up top with him as well worked his socks off and showed his qualities. Good opportunity for them and I think they took it.”
The injury to Randell came not long after Fiddes had given Blues the lead and required a lengthy stoppage while the Concord player received treatment.
No further action was taken against Luke Reeve who went in with Randell for the challenge, and Maher made sure to wish Randell a speedy recovery from everyone at the club.
“First and foremost, fingers crossed Jayden is ok and it’s a clean one, so we wish him our best from the club.
“They’ve come together. Reeves felt bad to be fair but he shouldn’t do because it was a fair tackle, but unfortunately Jayden’s come out in a bad way from it.
“All we can do is keep our fingers crossed it won’t be as bad a break as it can be and that he recovers as quickly as possible.”
One big plus for Maher from this afternoon was the sight of Louis Lomas in the starting line-up.
The defender signed from Brackley in the summer has missed a big chunk of pre-season through injury, but the Southend boss was happy to see him get 45 minutes under his belt.
“It’s been stop-start since he’s come in and you can see he’s got a good size, he knows the game, is a good defender and can handle the ball.
“Pleased to get him through 45 minutes. We’ll build him again next week through a full week of training and we’ll see where he is from there.”
With pre-season now complete, Southend can start to look ahead to next weekend’s league opener against perennial challengers Boreham Wood.
Maher overall was pleased with how his side’s pre-season has gone, but now can’t wait to start fighting for points.
“Really pleased [with pre-season] in terms of the fitness levels. You look at the young lads here that have played, they look really fit and the same with most of the first team that played last night are in a good position.
“We know where we need to add to in terms of bodies. If we could do a couple, that would be great but overall, pleased with everyone.
“I’ve been in clubs where you’ve won every game in pre-season and you start rubbish. We know what we want to see, and I think we’ve seen enough of that and look forward to a good week ahead and look forward to Saturday.
“[Boreham Wood] have recruited ever so well. They’re very consistent at this level and have done ever so well for a good few years now, so we know how tough that’ll be.
“It’s one we hope to be ready for and just get the season started and start playing for three points again on a Saturday/Tuesday which is what we all want.”