It was in this competition last season that our U23s made the final, narrowly losing to Bristol City. Their group stage campaign this season got underway at home to Southend and it was the visitors who started well, with two shots going either side of both posts in the opening minutes.
The first chance for the Young Bees came 7 minutes in. Ephron Mason-Clark, playing in central midfield, fired a shot just past the post which had the Southend ‘keeper scrambling.
Moments later, Malakai Mars layed the ball off to strike partner Shane Cojocarel but his effort went over the crossbar.
Just before the half hour mark, Renell McKenzie-Lyle made an excellent save from close range before Tom Day clear the following danger.
As the half time whistle approached, the visitors had claims for penalty waved away by the referee and the Southend man picked up a booking for simulation.
After the break, winger Fumnaya Shomotun cut inside and forced the Southend goalkeeper into a difficult save whilst at the other end McKenzie-Lyle was called into action yet again as he palmed over a Southend shot.
On the hour, a marauding run by captain Joe Payne saw him given time and space from 30 yards out to shot, but his effort went narrowly wide of the post.
Just 2 minutes later, Southend scored what was to be the only goal of the game. A corner on the left was whipped in and powerfully headed home by the visiting captain.
Following this, Southend defended resolutely in order to hold on to their lead. Another effort for Shomotun came and went and it wasn’t until injury time that the Young Bees had their best opportunity to salvage a point.
Malakai Mars managed to get in behind the Southend back line and was racing down on goal before being hauled back by the chasing defender, which subsequently saw the offender sent off.
The Young Bees lined up a free kick 20 yards out, but cleverly played it into the feet of Mars whose quick shot was deflected onto the post by the goalkeeper before rebounding back off of the Southend number 1 and causing a goalmouth scramble.
The visitors managed to clear it behind for a corner, but there was no time left to take it as the referee blew for the final time.
BARNET U23s | Renell McKenzie-Lyle, Dwight Pascal, Joe Payne ©, Ephron Mason-Clark, Darnell Smith, Tom Day, Rio Connell (Benjy Aghadiuno 69’), Fumnaya Shomotun, Malakai Mars, Shane Cojocarel, Nana Kyei (Antonnis Vasillou 83’).
Unused subs | Kai McKenzie-Lyle, Tobi Coker, Darren Abbey