Southend United may be reliant on other results going their way in order to progress from the group stages of the Youth Alliance Cup following a 2-1 home defeat to Gillingham.
United U18s suffered their first competitive defeat in eight matches at the hands of their Kent rivals despite leading through Marlong Agykwa’s first half strike.
And that caused Blues Head of Youth Ricky Duncan to deliver a damning verdict after the match.
“It was shocking in all areas,” he fumed immediately after the final whistle.
“We just didn’t do our jobs, whether that was at the back or up front. We missed a lot of early chances, and then some more later on.
“I thought we were poor in the first half and things did not improve in the second.”
Southend squandered an early opportunity to take the lead after 10 minutes when the usually dependable Jack Payne missed an excellent opportunity.
Payne then had an effort deflected wide from outside the penalty area before Aaron Tatham fired wildly off-target.
More chances arrived after a quarter-of-an-hour when Shamir Mullings towering header from Mitchell Pinnock’s cross-pushed by the Gills keeper to the feet of Payne, but his effort was scrambled off the goal-line.
Southend then survived a scare in the 18th minute when Tatham lost possession to Gillingham’s Aiden Blanchard outside the penalty area. Ted Smith blocked his effort before Josh Banton then stopped Aaron Millbank’s follow-up on the line.
However, 60 seconds later Southend United got themselves in front through Agyakwa after the winger scored inside the left-hand post following Fope Coker’s lofted pass.
Gillingham responded through Millbank who was unfortunate to see his 25-yard strike deflected over before another effort curled wide of the Blues post. At the other end Pinnock had his strong shot turned away before Payne nodded wide.
But two minutes before the half-time break Southend conceded an equaliser when Millbank was gifted possession before carefully crafting a through ball to Webster who just had to round keeper Smith before tapping into the empty net.
United reacted after the break when Payne forced his shot to be parried before shortly afterwards Agyakwa crossed for Pinnock but his volley was well off target.
Another frenetic goal-line intervention prevented Gills skipper Ollie Lee from putting the visitors ahead in the 64th minute.
Duncan then introduced Jack Bridge and Seedy Njie in a bid to turn the match in his favour but unfortunately the decisive moment would come at the other end of the pitch.
Banton was adjudged to have fouled Webster by the corner flag. Blanchard’s initial free-kick was cleared by Farrell, who got injured in the process, before his next set-piece somehow squirmed through Smith’s gloves and into the net at the near post.
Jason Williams was introduced as Blues sought a leveller, and there were opportunities late on. Tatham saw a strike charged down from Williams’ header and Njie nodded over from the ensuing corner in the last minute, and Lee blocked a Mullings strike in stoppage time.
Then, with the final action of the game, Mullings’ header from a long Pinnock throw was tipped over before Bridge smashed a half-volley off-target.
The defeat saw Southend concede leadership of Group Four to the Gills, although a win over Leyton Orient in two weeks time should be enough to secure at least second place. Three of the four runners-up in Groups One to Four will qualify for the knockout stages.
Southend United: Smith, Jeffery, Farrell (Williams 82), Edwards, Banton, Tatham, Agyakwa (Njie 71), Coker, Mullings, Payne (Bridge 58), Pinnock.
Substitutes not used: Barlow, Apenlenu.