Away v Queens Park Rangers - Saturday 4th October 2008
CUP - GROUP 5
Puma Youth Alliance Cup: QPR Under 18's 3 Southend United Under 18's 5
Calver hit two in each half whilst Fredrik Ljungström netted his first competitive goal for the club as both teams attacked with purpose and skill. The respective coaches, Ricky Duncan and Steve Brown, will be less pleased with their defences with Blues twice conceding from set-pieces in a thrilling Group Five fixture.
Duncan named arguably his strongest eleven for the match against the winners of the Youth Alliance League South-East Conference for the past two seasons, including Jack Morris at left-back as well as Ricky Byrne, Ronnie Jones and Stuart O'Keefe, who all appeared in the reserve team's 3-2 victory over Stevenage Borough in midweek.
It was former Ipswich Town scholar Calver who provided Southend's striking edge, opening the scoring after a mere four minutes. There appeared to be little danger when Calver collected the ball on the left-hand side of midfield, but he drifted in from the touchline before sending a dipping effort over the bewildered goalkeeper and into the top right-hand corner.
The lead lasted just 75 seconds as Rangers equalised when Merrick James-Lewis was adjudged to have fouled the R's left-sided midfielder just outside the Blues box. The same player lifted his effort over the defensive wall and Nathan McDonald, who appeared to misjudge the flight of the ball, and into the roof of the net.
Despite the scores being level, the Shrimpers had enjoyed the majority of possession, and O'Keefe curled past a post from Jones' raking ball forward. Centre-half Jones was thankful for McDonald's presence when he allowed a high ball to slip under his foot and the 'keeper saved Christian Nanetti's low strike.
With United controlling the midfield, it was no surprise that they regained the lead on 28 minutes. Calver again cut in from the left, this time exchanging passes with O'Keefe on the edge of the box, with the return pass releasing him free of the defence. The forward could have squared to Justin Hazell, but chose to shoot himself, a precise finish dissecting the goalkeeper and the base of the right-hand post.
Calver was unfortunate not to record a first-half hat-trick when Hazell picked him out 15 yards from goal, a first-time shot being instinctively turned around the upright by the QPR 'keeper but, with 33 minutes gone, there was a third goal for Blues. O'Keefe's burst of pace gained him the freedom to blast against the inside of the post, with Ljungström perfectly-placed to tap the rebound into the net.
James-Lewis' solo run from the halfway line to the edge of the box culminated in a deflected shot cannoning against the woodwork, the run showing United's teamwork as Byrne and Hazell both made excellent decoy runs.
Perhaps predictably, the hosts reduced the arrears on the counter-attack. A Southend corner was cleared to Josh Parker and he stretched play down the right. Although the winger was initially slowed in his progress by Davis Abbey, Parker's eventual cross was turned into his own goal by Morris as the full-back tried to shield the ball from Antonio German.
The second half began equally explosively as the first with Calver completing his hat-trick courtesy of a simple finish. Less than five minutes had passed after the interval when Abbey dug out a cross from the right and Calver took a touch before slotting the ball underneath the goalkeeper at the back post.
Once again the two-goal cushion lasted a little over five minutes with Rangers' imperious front man German rising unchallenged at the far post to power a header high into the net from a right-wing corner.
Finally the Shrimpers managed to dictate the pace of the fixture, with Jones and Ade Osifuwa looking comfortable in possession from open play. Right-back Byrne was a threat overlapping James-Lewis and he supplied a centre for Calver, whose goalbound attempt was diverted across the face of goal by a defender.
Abbey and German traded off-target long-range efforts at either end, and Calverwas denied by the goalkeeper as he burst into the box, although it would only be a matter of time before he added his seventh goal of the season. The tricky Hazell was the instigator, his wonderful 85th minute turn, dragging the ball under his right foot, helping him find the space to roll the ball to Calver, who stabbed goalwards for his fourth of the morning.
With seven points from three matches, Blues are guaranteed a top-three finish and qualification for the Second Round regardless of other results, although they will be seeking to extend their unbeaten start to the season when they welcome Millwall to Boots & Laces on Saturday morning.
Southend United U18s: Nathan McDonald; Ricky Byrne, Ronnie Jones, Ade Osifuwa, Jack Morris; Davis Abbey; Merrick James-Lewis (Marcus Milner 84), Stuart O'Keefe; Justin Hazell (Jamie Dennis 87); Fredrik Ljungström (Harry Crawford 66), Craig Calver.
Unused substitutes: Durran Reynolds, Callum Whittaker.
Goals: Calver (4, 29, 50, 85), Ljungström (34).
Cautioned: Abbey (90+2 - foul tackle).