The Barnet FC Youth Team were eliminated from the FA Youth Cup at the second round stage on Thursday night, going down 1-0 to Southend United at Roots Hall.
Despite dominating possession for long periods of the game and playing against ten men for most of the second half, the U18s were unable to break down a stubborn Shrimpers’ side as their fantastic cup run came to a frustrating end.
With Charlie Kennedy suffering an injury during the week, Barnet named 15-year-old Darnell Smith in the centre of defence alongside Joe Gater. Mathew Stevens started up front alongside Shane Cojocarel, with a fluid attacking three of Jack Taylor, Fumnaya Shomotun and Nana Kyei stationed behind them.
Barnet started the brighter of the two teams and were moving the ball around nicely whilst keeping Southend pinned inside their own half, with full-back Keir Dickson finding plenty of space to roam forward down the left.
However, the home side took the lead with the first effort on goal after twenty minutes, when George Burton stretched for a cross from the right that was marginally behind him and directed a looping header into the top corner.
The goal buoyed the hosts, and they nearly doubled their lead moments later when another cross from the right was stood up to the back post for Southend skipper Ross Johnson to direct a powerful header on target that Kai McKenzie-Lyle did superbly well to keep out with a reaction save.
Barnet quickly recovered and continued to dictate the tempo of the game. They came closest to equalising in the first half when Shane Cojocarel and Nana Kyei played a neat one-two inside the penalty area before the striker dragged his shot inches wide of the far post.
The pattern of play became even more exaggerated throughout the second half after the home side lost Ross Johnson just four minutes after the break for a second yellow card.
Barnet introduced winger Elliot Harris and forwards Ryan Gondoh and Carlito Lawton in a bid to find a breakthrough, but still the goal would not come.
Mathew Stevens grazed the top of the crossbar with a first-time shot after arriving late in the box to get on the end of a bouncing cross before Gondoh found the side netting after being forced wide.
With the Bees pushing ever more bodies forward, Southend nearly killed the game off with a second on the break, but a brilliant block by Joe Gater on the line denied substitute Imani Matthews.
The Bees did have one more chance when the ball fell to Harry Taylor in the box after his initial effort had been blocked by the chest of a defender, but with the Bees’ captain off-balance the ball sailed high and wide of goal.
It summed up a frustrating evening for Barnet, whose neat football and constant pressure deserved some reward.
The young Bees can now concentrate on a league campaign that currently sees them sitting four points clear at the top, although they will have to bounce back quickly with a trip to second-placed Peterborough United to follow on Saturday.
Barnet FC: Kai McKenzie-Lyle; Harry Taylor, Joe Gater, Darnell Smith (Carlito Lawton), Keir Dickson; Jack Taylor (Elliott Harris), Wesley Fonguck, Fumnaya Shomotun (Ryan Gondoh), Nana Kyei; Mathew Stevens, Shane Cojocarel.