Leyton Orient U18s concluded their Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference campaign with a 0-0 stalemate against Southend.
Orient came into the match on a run of four successive defeats and Andy Edwards made four changes to the team that lost to Watford last time out. In came Aron Pollock, Montel Agyemang, Josh Koroma and Scott Kashket to replace injured duo Kane Adams and Nick Brown as well as Christian Owusu and Sam Alderson who both took a place on the bench.
With Orient needing a win to stand the best hope of finishing in the top half of the South East Conference, there was a brief scare for the hosts early on when Aron Pollock’s scuffed pass back to goalkeeper Sam Sargeant was pounced on by Freddie Gard but despite rounding Sargeant he was unable to hit the target.
The chance came as a huge warning for the O’s following an encouraging start to the match but they soon regained their momentum and Victor Adeboyejo saw a shot deflected behind for a corner.
Corner kicks were beginning to rack up for Orient who had failed to trouble the opposition up until this point but the hosts were left fuming when what looked to be a perfectly fine goal was ruled out on the 13th minute.
After Scott Kashket’s initial corner was headed back out Freddy Moncur burst towards the by-line and crossed for Sam Ling at the back post. The O’s captain won the aerial duel to head the ball back across goal for Adeboyejo, who appeared to be in line with at least two Southend defenders, to head beyond Southend stopper James Macree. Orient’s celebrations were halted however the linesman flagged for offside and the goal was controversially chalked off.
The O’s continued to push forward afterwards and Adeboyejo came close again moments later when he collected Josh Koroma’s pass before firing a shot into the side netting and soon after Ling headed straight at Macree from a corner.
Having created a number of chances early in the game Orient’s attacking threat fizzled out towards the end of the half and Southend nearly grabbed a goal late on when Nico Cotton flashed a shot across goal.
Over recent weeks Orient had struggled after the restart but it was not to be the case this time round as they remained organised and kept possession well in the middle of the park.
Full-back Myles Judd nearly opened the scoring just shy of the hour mark in what would have been somewhat fortuitous fashion as his lofted cross to the back post looked to be venturing in until Macree clawed the ball out with the help of the woodwork.
Five minutes later however Southend could well have taken the lead had it not been for a last-ditch intervention from Ling.
After an Orient attack broke down Southend countered quickly and looked to thread Burton through one-on-one. Sargeant was off his line quickly however to reach the ball first but it dropped kindly to Brandon Scott 30-yards out with a clear sight on goal. With Sargeant on the ground Scott took aim from outside the box but Ling got across in time to deny the Shrimpers and head the ball away.
As time started to run out Adeboyejo then missed a wonderful chance with 15 minutes left to play. Moncur pressured Macree into kicking the ball straight to Adeboyejo’s feet just outside the box but the striker squandered the chance and fired his shot wide.
The Southend ‘keeper then produced a wonderful save on the 79th minute to push Kashket’s powerful drive away after the O’s striker had collected a short corner and burst into the box.
A minute later Montel Agyemang looked certain to score from six-yards out but having run onto Ling’s header the midfielder failed to get any power in his shot and the ball rolled through to Macree.
By this point Orient were really running out of time and substitute Sam Alderson curled a shot wide from distance as the hosts continued try and find a way through the Southend defence.
Despite Orient’s mounting pressure the visitors worked a late opening when Scott was played through down the left before drilling a shot wide of the Orient goal.
With only minutes remaining Steven Alzate entered the fray for his first taste of youth team action and the youngster nearly made an immediate impact. The U16s winger showed great composure to control the ball well inside the box and set the ball for Alderson but Sonny Coutts blocked the shot bravely.
As the match entered added time Orient continued to throw bodies forward and there was a frenzy inside the Southend box when Macree dropped a Moncur cross at the feet of Adeboyejo but the ‘keeper recovered to eventually claim the ball.
There was to be one last chance for the O’s in the dying seconds as Moncur floated a free kick into the box but despite Pollock getting on the end of it the defender’s volley narrowly dropped over the bar for the final kick of the match.
Following the draw Orient miss out on a top half finish in the South East Conference as they failed to better Stevenage’s result who defeated Luton Town.
As a result Orient will play in Merit League 2, which gets underway at the start of February and will see the teams from the bottom half of the South East and South West Conference merge together.
ORIENT: Sam Sargeant, Myles Judd, Sam Ling, Aron Pollock, Jack Humphrey, Montel Agyemang, Freddy Moncur, Josh Koroma (Christian Owusu 61), Shola Oladipo (Sam Alderson 71), Scott Kashket (Steven Alzate 87), Victor Adeboyejo
SUBS: Michael Clark, Harry Andic
BOOKED: Judd (86), Humphrey (89)
SOUTHEND: James Macree, Jordan Williams, Emmanuel Adeyeye, Joe Bedford, Daniel Matsuzaka, Sonny Coutts (c), Brandon Scott, Macauley Keating, George Burton (Norman Wabo 71), Freddie Gard, Nico Cotton
SUBS: Josh Bexon, Rene Batlokwa, Aboul Salami, Harry Phillips
BOOKED: Keating (52), Cotton (52), Gard (77)