Cambridge United’s U18s confirmed their progression through the opening round of the FA Youth Cup for a fourth straight season, with a 1-2 away win over Southend United at Roots Hall.
A brace from Jake Battersby proved enough to book the U’s place in the Second Round, where they face Barnet at the Hive.
United looked spritely in the opening encounters, with Jake Battersby causing issues down the U’s left flank whilst the U’s delivered a series of early set pieces into the centre of Southend’s area that the hosts fielded well.
Chances were at a premium in a cagey first 45 minutes in truth though, with the Shrimpers only mustering a long range effort from a free kick which U’s keeper Louis Chadwick was able to watch comfortably onto the roof of his net.
It seemed the sides would head into the break scoreless, until Battersby popped up in the right place at the right time six yards out to fire a volley between the legs of Southend keeper Callum Taylor and earn United the lead three minutes before half time.
The U’s were quick to open up a clear chance after the break, as Joe Rider timed his run inside the Shrimper’s area well and connected with his right foot but denied with a fine reaction stop by Taylor.
United were hit with a counter attack from the resulting corner as Robert Unwin displayed impressive speed to strip his marker for pace and finish cleanly into the bottom corner to equalise on 48 minutes.
Freddy Eastwood cut in and let fire on a venomous effort as the Shrimpers looked for a lead of their own, which required Chadwick to palm away with both gloves midway through the half.
Joe Dearman carried possession in field from his right wing position into the Southend area with 15 minutes to play, and looked to have been brought down by a sliding challenge, but referee Jordan Cushen waved away United’s claims.
Dearman brushed himself down quickly though and on 77 minutes zipped a low cross through to Battersby at the far post, who made no mistake with a cool side foot finish to restore the U’s advantage in the tie.
The U’s escaped a pair of late scares as an in-swinging cross through their six yard box evaded a touch from any Southend player and a header at the back post was blocked, as United held on for the win to confirm their progression into Round Two.
U18s Coach Jimmy Unwin commented: “It was a good win and a game where we had to dig in for a spell. It was slightly topsy turvy as both sides had their spells and we had players cramping up but the boys all showed amazing character to get themselves through.
"We have been talking about scoring goals at the back post and thankfully Jake Battersby has clicked this evening and got two there tonight. We knew Southend would up the tempo and the pressure in the second half, but the players adapted well to that in order to take control of the game.
"Barnet in the next round and they will give us a good game. We have beaten 3-0 already this season, but they are a phyical side and it will be another tough evening. We look forward to it and anotherr stadium to tick off, which is a great experience for the boys."
Southend United U18s: Taylor, Chandler, Biler, Brogan, Davis, Wallace, Unwin, Brown (Anyadike, 83 mins), Lambourne (Adedoja, 64 mins), Coker, Eastwood
Cambridge United U18s: Chadwick, Steel (Mansaray, 71 mins), Maragh, Gray (Beckett, 80 mins), Dickens, Dearman, Simper, Rider, Brown, Battersby, Cowling (Richard-Noel, 45 mins)
Bookings: Steel, Brown