Blues suffer narrow defeat at AFC Wimbledon in Youth Alliance South East Conference.
Alfie Egan's fifth-minute strike consigned Southend United U18s to a 1-0 defeat in their latest league game at AFC Wimbledon.
The result continued Blues' inconsistent form in the Football League Youth Alliance South East Conference as Dave Huzzey's side registered a second defeat in their last three games. However, the teenage Shrimpers did have their chances in a hard-fought encounter in south London.
With midfielder Joe Bedford remaining in Essex to warm-up with the first-team squad ahead of their League One clash against Blackpool and fellow second-year scholar Dan Walker on the substitutes' bench, there was a youthful look to the Southend side. Tom Clifford joined Ben Musselwhite in the centre of midfield whilst Tom Ripsher's selection at right-back necessitated a switch to left-back for Elvis Bwomono.
It was two experienced members of the team who combined at a blustery King's College Sports Ground in New Malden to threaten for the first time in the second minute. Playmaker Harry Phillips exchanged passes with Norman Wabo, but he then directed his 25-yard strike the wrong side of the left-hand upright.
Egan would make no such mistake three minutes later as the Dons took an early lead. The forward was found, unmarked, by a bouncing right-wing cross, and he emphatically fired the hosts in front with a thumping finish into the top left-hand corner of the net.
Despite the setback, Blues made a bright start and Ripsher and Clifford were involved in setting up Musselwhite for another long-range effort that was directed off-target. The Wimbledon goalkeeper was finally brought into service in the ninth minute when Lewis Gard forced him into a parried near-post stop.
Many of Southend's attempts were delivered from distance, and that pattern was epitomised by Clifford, who drilled a 30-yard effort narrowly over when Gard's 18th-minute pass to Wabo was cut out, and then saw a similar attempt suffer an identical fate five minutes later.
Wimbledon, for their part, drew a useful block from Bexon, who denied an attacker with his legs, before Damani Dias failed to convert the best opportunity of the half for the visitors four minutes before the break. The winger galloped onto a through-ball before smashing his shot at the goalkeeper from twelve yards out.
The hosts ended the half on top after an attacker got around Ripsher to test Bexon again, but Blues began the second period on the front foot with Musselwhite lifting another long-range strike over the crossbar. With the wind marginally at their backs, they could expect to create more as the match progressed.
Instead Wimbledon gave Southend a series of anxious moments, beginning in the 53rd minute when skipper Abdul Salami was called upon to nod the ball off the head of a forward as he seemed destined to convert a left-wing cross. From the resultant corner, Blues managed to scramble the ball to safety.
Dan Walker was introduced in the 56th minute looking to add to his 15 goals this season and provide a new focal point for Southend's attacks, but again the action was centred at the opposite end shortly after his arrival on with Bexon making a crucial close-range stop.
Wabo relieved the pressure a little by steering a shot into the goalkeeper's gloves just before the hour mark, but only brilliant defending from Ripsher and Salami prevented a Dons forward from bearing down on Bexon one-on-one in the 64th minute ahead of another last-ditch challenge from Salami sixty seconds later.
Blues had to continue working hard, and they almost created an opening midway through the half when Bwomono's inswinging cross was prodded at the goalkeeper by a sliding Phillips. The visitors controlled possession in the latter stages, but they couldn't fashion any further chances as the Dons defended well, leaving Southend to rue a narrow 1-0 defeat ahead of Wednesday's trip to Newport County in The FA Youth Cup.
Southend United: Josh Bexon, Tom Ripsher, Elvis Bwomono, Tom Clifford, Joe Mackenzie, Abdul Salami, Damani Dias (Imani Matthews, 77), Ben Musselwhite, Norman Wabo, Lewis Gard (Dan Walker, 56), Harry Phillips.
Substitutes not used: Harry Seadon, Perry Hirst.