Goals from Dejon Noel-Williams and Fabio Lopes earned United's under 23 side a 2-1 win at Southend United tonight in the Under 23 cup. Chris Allen's side proved too clinical in front of goal for the Blues in a very competitive tie at Roots Hall played in a great spirit and made nervy for the U's when Norman Wabo scored a late goal for the home side.
The first half was evenly-contested with keeper Jack Stevens having to make two or three first class saves to keep his side level before Noel-Williams gave his side the lead from the spot. The striker was blocked as he lifted the ball over the on-rushing keeper to earn the penalty but kept his nerve to fire United into a half time lead.
Noel-Williams had led the line well with Rev James, Albie Hopkins and Fabio Lopes joining him from slightly deeper and the hard-tackling Aaron Heap and Tsun Dai giving the front four a solid base to build from. At the back Sam Long led by example alongside Matt Berry-Hargreaves, Steven Johnson-Fikula and Matt Taylor.
They had to withstand pressure in the second half as Southend pressed for an equaliser but with tackles flying in it became a very enjoyable proper cup tie. There was even a three chance mad scramble on 72 as Southend sliced the ball, forced Stevens into a worldy (possibly two) hit the post (possibly twice), missed a sitter and somehow failed to score when it seemed easier to poke the ball home
Almost inevitably they were made to pay when United scored the second straught after. Harvey Bradbury, a nuisance when he came on for Noel-Williams, rose well to nod a corner goalwards and Lopes, in front of the keeper back-heeled it into the net for a clever finish that just about guaranteed that United went through.
It got anxious when Wabo knocked home a Ba cross with four minutes to go but United held their nerve and now go through to a four game group where they will play Swansea, Wolves and Hull, all home and away. If those games are as entertaining as this then get along and support the youngsters.
Stevens, Long, Berry-Hargreaves, Johnson-Fikula, Taylor, Dai, Heap, R James, Hopkins, Lopes, Noel-Williams (Bradbury 73)