Norwich City were crowned 2012 BC Worldwide Challenge Cup winners after defeating hosts Southend United, 2-1, in the final of the youth team competition at Boots & Laces.
In the process, the Canaries became the first side to beat Blues’ Youths in regulation play at the annual pre-season event as goals from Carlton Morris and Cameron Norman saw them come from behind to win. Seedy Njie had put Southend in front with a goal of real quality in the eleventh minute, and Norwich’s success was only confirmed after the Shrimpers had piled on the pressure in the second period.
“We may have lost today’s game, but I thought we played a lot better than we did in beating Colchester United yesterday,” remarked Head of Youth Ricky Duncan after the final whistle. “We really put them under pressure in the second half and we came so close to equalising, so I’m very happy with the squad this afternoon.”
Duncan made two chances to the team that had triumphed 2-1 against rivals Colchester United in the semi-final, with Dan King and Jack Bridge brought into midfield in place of Marlon Agyakwa and Fope Coker. Southend started strongly, pressurising the player on the ball at every opportunity before carving out the first chances of the match in the ninth minute.
The first such instance came when Jack Payne collected Josh Banton’s pass and tried to squeeze a shot inside the right-hand post, but the ball took a deflection and went out for a corner. From Mitchell Pinnock’s flag-kick, Aaron Tatham glanced a header wide at the back post.
It only took a further two minutes for the youthful Shrimpers to take the lead thanks to a scintillating finish from Njie. The move was initiated by captain Jack Edwards, who managed to thread the ball into the forward down the inside-left channel. Njie held off the attentions of a defender before viciously thrashing his shot into the top right-hand corner of the net from twelve yards out.
In their semi-final, Norwich had raced two goals clear inside ten minutes, so this was the first time that they had been behind in the tournament, but they responded well to the set-back and slowly began to impose their own ability on the fixture. Cameron King’s 20th minute free-kick found Johan Romhoum at the back post, but a combination of the right-back and Norman could not beat Ted Smith from close range.
The dangerous Josh Murphy then unleashed a fierce shot just inches over the bar before picking out Cameron McGeehan with a corner, only for the midfielder’s downward header to bounce up off the turf and against the woodwork.
Eventually, City’s pressure told. In the 31st minute they equalised through Morris, who found himself clear of the defence down the right-hand side of the penalty area and slid his shot underneath Smith. Five minutes later, the Canaries were in front as Blues failed to clear their lines and allowed Morris to loop a cross up for Norman to angle his header inside the base of the left-hand post.
The first half ended with Njie glancing a Pinnock corner wide, and that was a portent of things to come after the break as Southend set up camp in their visitors’ half despite a swathe of changes. One of the substitutes, Michael Ademuliyi, was first to threaten within two minutes of the restart as he attempted to turn in Pinnock’s free-kick. Indeed, the speedster thought the ball had crossed the line, although the referee waved away his frantic appeals for an equaliser.
Norwich goalkeeper Arie Hammann had to be alert in the 52nd minute to push the ball over from underneath his crossbar after a defender had nodded a Jason Williams corner goalwards, and ten minutes later he was fully extended in stopping Williams’ snapshot from creeping in.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Payne was invited to try his luck from a set-piece situation after Shamir Mullings had been held back on the edge of the penalty area. The playmaker’s free-kick from the edge of the ‘D’ seemed destined to skid in, but it took a deflection off the defensive wall and was diverted onto the outside of the right-hand post.
Payne stood over another dead ball from similar distance two minutes later, but this time he elected to pick out Harry Jeffery with a clever pass, only for the full-back and Ademuliyi to see efforts from just outside the penalty area charged down. Then, with seven minutes left, Agyakwa exchanged passes with Kane Farrell to set up Payne, who got in front of his marker at the near post, only to flash his shot wide at the near post.
In the dying stages, with Southend pushing on in a desperate search for a leveller, a booming Hammann goal-kick almost caught the Blues back-line out and Dan Snook headed over the advancing Smith but, thankfully for both defender and goalkeeper, the ball bounced wide.
Even though Norwich were able to lift the trophy at the end, Duncan was happy with his charges: “Despite the result, I’m pleased. We’ve played two matches in two days in hot conditions, and there’s no disgrace in losing to this Norwich team. We got ourselves into the final, and we worked and improved upon all the things that we did wrong yesterday. We still have areas that we can get better in, and that’s the challenge now before the season starts,” he said.
Southend United: Ted Smith, Harry Jeffery, Robert Hyams (Kane Farrell 41), Jack Edwards (Charlie Barlow 56), Aaron Tatham (Dan Snook 40+1), Josh Banton, Dan King (Jason Twum 46 [Jack Payne 61]), Jack Bridge (Kamal Creary 41), Seedy Njie (Jason Williams 41), Payne (Michael Ademuliyi 35 [Marlon Agyakwa 73]), Mitchell Pinnock (Shamir Mullings 46). Substitute not used: Ben Crickmay.
Norwich City: Arie Hammann, Johan Romhoum, Harry Barker (Ben Wyatt 59), Cameron McGeehan, Sebastian Ramhoum, Kyle McFadden (Kevin Lokko 59), Cameron Norman (Rys Browne 41), Reece Hall-Johnson (Rian Carroll 53), Carlton Morris (Norman 71), Cameron King (Harvey Hodd 53), Josh Murphy (Hall-Johnson 68). Substitute not used: Joe Gill.
Referee: Jonathan Pickford.
Assistants: Craig Pullen & David Hutton.
Fourth Official: Garry Maskell.