Southend United added Coventry City to their list of FA Premier Academy League scalps under the management of Ricky Duncan as they claimed a 3-1 success over the Sky Blues in the Third Round of the FA Youth Cup sponsored by E.ON.
Three years ago Blues defeated Derby County and Stoke City at Roots Hall in reaching the last sixteen for the first-time, and ironically the Rams await in the Fourth Round of this season's competition after another famous night in southeast Essex.
Coventry took the lead through Billy Daniels' penalty after a quarter-of-an-hour, but the teenage Shrimpers showed great resolve to pull themselves level through Hicham Abdellah's wonder-strike, and in the second half Julian Okai and Duane Ofori-Acheampong made sure of the success with two contrasting goals.
Duncan was able to call upon captain Kane Ferdinand, who made his third first-team appearance of the season against Chesterfield on Saturday, and Alex Woodyard, similarly having been on senior duty at the weekend, for the fixture, as well as fit-again goalkeeper Daniel Bentley. Abdellah's impressive return in the 3-1 Youth Alliance League victory over Aldershot Town was enough to keep him in the side at the expense of highly-rated 16-year-old Lyle Della-Verde.
The hosts made a confident start to the match, which was only able to take place after an incredible amount of work was put in on the playing surface by the club groundstaff during a day in which precipitation regularly fell throughout the county.
Woodyard was the first to try and find his range, but a flying effort from 20 yards comfortably cleared the North Bank crossbar. A similar fate befell fellow midfielder James Stevens when he attempted a rasping free-kick from distance, the ball only managing to connect with the scoreboard behind the goal.
Coventry have not enjoyed the best of seasons in their section of the FA Premier Academy League, but they showed ingenuity with an early set-piece, Connor Gudger picking out Josh Ruffels at the near post, only for the winger to side-foot wide of the left-hand upright. Ferdinand then did well to block a driven Ruffels centre at close range as he fired Cyrus Christie's cross into the six-yard box.
Then visitors took the lead a quarter-of-an-hour into the tie when Jonson Clarke-Harris got in behind Ferdinand from Conor Thomas' lofted through-ball. As the defender tried to get back, Bentley came out to meet the pair and the referee adjudged the Southend custodian to have brought the forward down. Daniels stepped up and sent Bentley the wrong way, slamming his spot-kick into the bottom left-hand corner.
Blues immediately stepped up their game, Anthony Furlonge being rendered particularly unfortunate when he met an Okai corner at the back post, only to see his effort deflected into the side-netting within three minutes of the City goal.
Okai then warmed the gloves of Lee Burge in the Coventry goal after a pacy run inside from the left touchline and, although Bentley had a nervous moment when Daniels' innocuous header spun viciously in the mud to warrant a desperate lunging save, the Shrimpers were very much in the ascendancy by the time that they equalised.
The leveller was a goal of real quality, delivered from the right boot of Abdellah. The winger, whose only previous goal this term had come in a 3-2 Youth Alliance Cup win against Colchester United, received the ball 25 yards from goal when Stevens' long-range free-kick was headed out to him, and he proceeded to leave the net bulging with a tremendous clean-hit effort past Burge.
With parity restored, Blues continued to look sharp, although it was their opponents who fashioned the final two chances of the opening period during stoppage time as Luke Adams' glancing header was blocked by Ofori-Acheampong and Christie's powerful aerial effort was directed over from eight yards out.
After the interval, it was Coventry that exerted the greater pressure early on as Thomas again latched onto a short corner, this time delivered by Luke Bottomer, the midfielder seeing a sliding shot deflected wide. There was an identical outcome just after the hour mark when Daniels rifled Gudger's flag-kick towards goal.
Having ridden out the temporary storm - and with Teddy Nesbitt and Ofori-Acheampong going into the referee's notebook as a measure of the tenacity on show - Southend then set about seizing the initiative. In the 65th minute, they received a huge slice of luck, but the resultant goal showcased the ruthless nature within the squad.
There should have been little danger for Sky Blues shotstopper Burge as he left his penalty area to kick clear Nesbitt's swinging ball over the top. However, both Ofori-Acheampong and Okai hungrily chased down the goalkeeper, forcing him to make a crucial error. As the ball skidded low on the sodden turf, Burge's right boot missed its intended connection, and Okai was able to tap his sixth goal of the season into an empty net.
At the other end, opposite number Bentley made a vital save as Bottomer failed to connect with his outstretched right boot, the second-year scholar required to make a late decision to push Gudger's cross-cum-shot around the post.
With seventeen minutes remaining, Blues were celebrating again. The source was familiar, Stevens' precise dead-ball delivery picking out the towering Ofori-Acheampong, who craned his neck back to nod into the top left-hand corner of the net under intense pressure from his marker. It was the forward's 12th goal of the season, continuing his run of netting in each round of the FA Youth Cup.
Della-Verde, who struck wide from 25 yards late on, and Jack Paxman were introduced in place of hard-working duo Abdellah and George Smith, whilst at the back Ferdinand and Louis Baucutt ensured that there would be no route back into the game for City, despite an additional five minutes of stoppage time.
A couple of goalmouth scrambles were decisively cleared to safety, paving the way for a trip to Pride Park at the end of the month and the opportunity for Duncan's charges to attempt to defeat Academy opposition away from home for the first time in a competitive fixture.
Southend United: Daniel Bentley, Anthony Furlonge, Teddy Nesbitt, James Stevens, Louis Baucutt, Kane Ferdinand, Hicham Abdellah (Lyle Della-Verde 68), Alex Woodyard, Duane Ofori-Acheampong, George Smith (Jack Paxman 86), Julian Okai.
Subs not used: Luke Chambers, Ryan Auger, Fope Coker.
Goals: Abdellah (33), Okai (65), Ofori-Acheampong (73).
Cautioned: Nesbitt (51 - foul tackle), Ofori-Acheampong (63 - adopting an aggressive attitude).
Coventry City: Lee Burge, Jordan Willis, Connor Gudger (Joe Henderson 86), Conor Grogan (Gael Bigirimana 59), Luke Adams, Cyrus Christie, Luke Bottomer (Will Roberts 83), Conor Thomas, Jonson Clarke-Harris, Billy Daniels, Josh Ruffels.
Subs not used: Alistair Worby, Aaron Phillips.
Goal: Daniels (15 pen).