Home v Millwall - Saturday 11th October 2008
CUP - GROUP 5
Blues' participation in the competition will continue with a knockout Second Round fixture to look forward to on 22nd November despite this reverse, their first in 14 matches. Although the result represents a disappointment for Ricky Duncan and his team, they will now be focussing on a top-of-the-table clash with Brighton & Hove Albion in the League this Saturday.
The manner in which the squad recover from this minor setback will be an important part of the scholars' development, although there was no question over their commitment to this fixture with the first half watched by Steve Tilson and Paul Brush.
There were two enforced changes to the line-up that had been so impressive in a 5-3 win at Queens Park Rangers seven days previously as Stuart O'Keefe was rested after his exploits in the reserve team at Norwich City and Fredrik Ljungström was kept out by a hamstring strain picked up in training. Jamie Dennis and Harry Crawford represented straight replacements.
Following a scrappy opening ten minutes, Nathan McDonald was called upon for the first time as he made a routine save above his head from a close-range shot. After a quarter-of-an-hour, Ade Osifuwa got the slightest of touches to deflect another effort past the left-hand upright.
Captain Davis Abbey's misplaced pass was indicative of the disjointed nature of his team's play, and Osifuwa was this time beaten for pace by Millwall's speedy right-winger. Fortunately for the former Arsenal centre-half, McDonald advanced off of his line to tip the ball wide.
The custodian made another comfortable save from a long-range shot and his positioning was excellent again when Osifuwa was forced to concentrate on one of Millwall's forwards and allowed the other a sight on goal. Having cut in, the front man drilled into the side-netting with McDonald having reduced his options.
Dennis headed wide from a Justin Hazell corner, but that was the only time Southend seriously threatened the visitors' goal in the opening period. Worse was to follow within two minutes of the restart when the Lions took the lead through a header planted into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal from a pinpoint left-wing cross.
From this point, Blues began to impose themselves on the fixture. Just before the hour mark, United's first truly flowing move saw Ricky Byrne pick out Dennis, with the midfielder spotting Craig Calver on the edge of the penalty area. The forward spun his marker and cut inside, appearing to be brought down in the process, although the referee waved away his appeals for a penalty. Millwall raced immediately to the other end, where a sliced shot failed to trouble McDonald.
Hazell's free-kick was then powerfully nodded down by Ronnie Jones, but the 'keeper stooped down to save before the Shrimpers changed tack with the introduction of Marcus Milner and Kyle Asante to add pace to the front line.
With a little under fifteen minutes remaining, Milner bundled the ball forwards for Asante, who collided with the goalkeeper as they chased a 50-50 ball in the six-yard box. Soon afterwards, the 'keeper was leaping to his left to push away a fierce Asante half-volley after Crawford had fed him possession.
Calver then had a golden opportunity to equalise in the 88th minute as the ball fell loose into his path from Jack Morris' high delivery into the penalty area. The Saffron Walden-born youngster, who netted four times last weekend, pushed his left-footed shot to the right of the goal from ten yards and, after four minutes of stoppage time, Southend were left frustrated after tasting a rare defeat.
Southend United U18s: Nathan McDonald; Ricky Byrne, Ronnie Jones, Ade Osifuwa, Jack Morris; Davis Abbey; Merrick James-Lewis (Kyle Asante 68), Jamie Dennis (Marcus Milner 68); Justin Hazell; Harry Crawford, Craig Calver. Subs not used: Callum Whittaker, Duran Reynolds.