Home v Dagenham & Redbridge - Saturday 6th December 2008
Calver's second-half strike arrived five minutes after Dagenham had taken the lead with another freak goal from a corner kick delivered to Nathan McDonald's near post. Blues' Youths have dropped points in only two League fixtures this season, and both of those matches have been against the Daggers.
Under-16s right-back Omar Folkes made his debut for the senior youth team in defence, having made his Shrimpers bow earlier this term as a substitute in the Essex Senior Cup defeat to Redbridge. The only other change from the side that were beaten 3-2 against Gillingham saw fit-again Fredrik Ljungström replace Kyle Asante in the advanced position amongst the top three.
Dagenham counteracted Southend well in a goalless draw at Victoria Road earlier this term, and the match began in a similar vein. The visitors stayed tight to the young Shrimpers and did not allow them space to get in behind the defence, whilst keeping play compact in the centre of the pitch to thwart United's wide threat.
Blues were restricted to a 35-yard strike from Duran Reynolds that had to be turned around the post and a header from the left-back Justin Hazell's ensuing corner. At the other end, McDonald made a comfortable save from a weak 20-yard effort before a Dagenham defender hit a rasping free-kick from distance that the goalkeeper had to push around the right-hand post.
As the fixture approached the half-hour mark, United enjoyed their best spell of possession, culminating in a fine ball down the left from Merrick James-Lewis that set Calver free. The Saffron Walden-born front man picked out Ljungström, who had unfortunately slipped as the ball came in and could not control comfortably. He did get a shot away, but this was blocked and neither the Swede nor Jamie Dennis could turn in the loose ball.
If the ending to the half - Calver flicking a Reynolds free-kick wide with his head - hinted that Blues were finding their feet, then the beginning of the second period saw Southend pushed firmly onto the back foot.
First a set-piece from 30 yards out on the right touchline swirled wickedly in the breeze and McDonald managed to clutch the ball just inside the far post having initially been deceived then, from a flag-kick crossed by the same left-back, Daggers took the lead on 54 minutes.
The corner was swung in to the near post where, amongst a flurry of flying feet and sliding bodies, McDonald failed to grasp possession and the assistant referee adjudged that the ball had crossed the line. Minutes later, a left-wing centre was glanced inches past the upright by an unmarked Dagenham forward.
However, the perceived injustice of falling behind, shown by cautions for Ronnie Jones and Ljungström in the immediate aftermath, played its part in Southend's determined response on the hour mark. The goal arrived from a familiar source, Calver cutting inside his marker to collect a right-wing pass and drive a clinical finish from 15 yards into the bottom right-hand corner for his twelfth goal of the season in all competitions.
The equaliser galvanised Blues, who almost took the lead two minutes later. Hazell fired a dipping shot from the edge of the penalty area that rebounded off of the bar, with Ljungström smashing the follow-up into the side-netting.
Ljungström, who played well on his return to the side, spun round from a Reynolds throw-in and forced the 'keeper into a save before he was replaced by Harry Crawford. Kyle Asante and Callum Whittaker were also introduced in place of James-Lewis and Ade Osifuwa, who had collided in the first half but played on bravely.
United failed to create any further clear-cut opportunities, a Hazell run ending with Dennis prodding the ball into the custodian's gloves whilst McDonald made a good low stop in the final minute to prevent Daggers from grabbing a last-gasp winner.
Ricky Duncan will be hoping for an improved display, and a positive result, when Leyton Orient visit Boots & Laces on Saturday.
Southend United U18s: Nathan McDonald; Omar Folkes, Ronnie Jones, Adetayo Osifuwa (Callum Whittaker 61), Duran Reynolds; Davis Abbey; Jamie Dennis, Merrick James-Lewis (Kyle Asante 61); Justin Hazell, Fredrik Ljungström (Harry Crawford 72), Craig Calver. Sub not used: Marcus Milner.
Goal: Calver (60).
Booked: Ljungström (57 - dissent), Jones (57 - dissent), Calver (68 - dissent), Folkes (79 - foul tackle).