The Barnet FC Youth Team bounced back in the Merit League on Saturday by recording a 3-2 win over Southend United at The Hive, their first victory over the Shrimpers in four attempts this season having already faced them twice in the Youth Alliance South East division as well as in the second round of the FA Youth Cup.
The Bees made a number of changes for the game, with Tamille Roache keeping his place at left-back and Hakeem Odofin coming in at right-back in place of captain Harry Taylor who had been called up to the bench for the first team at Altrincham.
Meanwhile, Ryan Gondoh and Elliot Harris were recalled to an attack with Mathew Stevens as the spearhead in a 4-3-3 formation as Shane Cojocarel dropped back into the number ten role with Jack Taylor and Wesley Fonguck completing the midfield.
Barnet started the first half on the front foot by pressing Southend high up the pitch and forcing them into mistakes when playing the ball out from the back.
They took the lead after twenty minutes when Fonguck broke up play in midfield before immediately playing the ball to Gondoh on the left who in turn fed Harris. The winger then beat his man before crossing low for Stevens to steal in between the two centre-halves and finish first-time for his 44th goal of the season.
The second half started in similar fashion with both teams looking to play forward at every opportunity before Barnet doubled their advantage.
Jack Taylor stole possession before playing in the advancing Fonguck, who took a sublime first touch to bring the ball away from the onrushing defender before being brought down on the turn. Cojocarel then stepped up to slot home the penalty for his 22nd goal of an impressive campaign.
Southend were stirred by the second goal and the momentum of the game suddenly switched in their favour when they pulled a goal back through Harry Phillips who stroked home after Harris had been dispossessed.
Barnet were then again punished for taking too many touches on the ball in their defensive third when Roache was caught in possession before the ball was slid across to Brandon Scott who ran at his man before creating a yard of space and squeezing his shot inside the far post to make it 2-2 on 69 minutes.
The Bees responded by introducing Nana Keyi and Keir Dickson in place of Gondoh and Harris, and the double change quickly paid off when Barnet scored a decisive third with ten minutes left.
A well-worked pattern of play between Keyi, Taylor, Stevens and Fonguck eventually allowed Dickson to run between Southend’s centre-back and full-back, taking a touch towards goal before calmly lifting the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper.
Southend threw everything at Barnet for the last ten minutes, with Joe Gater winning a number of headers and tackles around the edge of the box in order to help see out the victory that keeps Barnet in second position in the Merit League, one point behind leaders Plymouth Argyle.
Following the game, Lead Professional Development Phase Coach Rossi Eames was extremely pleased with the performance of the team, stating:
“The players certainly deserve a lot of credit with their pressure, shape and the way they pressed Southend in the first half. I thought that our left-hand side was excellent both on and off the ball with our overlaps to create two-on-one situations in the final third. I was also very pleased with the movement of our nine and ten who looked to stretch Southend’s centre-backs.
“Henry and I had worked hard with the players all week to switch the play so that we moved the opposition around and could exploit them. Southend defend very well and also counter-attack effectively so the players had their work cut out with regards to being balanced on and off the ball.
“Southend should probably have had a penalty but I think that we slightly edged them today in terms of performance – all four games this season have been exciting with both teams playing quick, attacking football.”