A brace by midfielder Renei Batlokwa helped Southend United U23s to record their first victory of the Central League South Division season with a 3-2 triumph away to AFC Wimbledon.
Blues currently top their group in the Central League Cup but Kevin Maher’s side had not recorded a win from their opening three league fixtures. However, a trip to Merstham’s Moatside Stadium brought a change in fortunes as the visitors withstood a second-half fightback from the Dons to emerge successfully.
An injury to youth team centre-back Miles Mitchell-Nelson meant that Stephen Hendrie was forced into action at the heart of the defence alongside Taylor Curran instead of his preferred left-back role. Maher also included Amadou Ba up front after his recent appearances from the substitutes’ bench for the first team.
Wimbledon made the better start to the match as Paul Kalambayi nodded just off-target from a corner and Richard Pingling also fired wide in the early stages. However, Blues took the lead after 15 minutes when Norman Wabo set up Batlokwa and he slotted home past Nik Tzanev.
Wabo had scored in his previous four U23s appearances but, although he wasn’t on the scoresheet this time around, he turned provider for a second time just moments later when his through-ball caused confusion in the Dons defence and Ba netted from close-range to double Southend’s advantage.
Blues were on top at this stage and, even though Ossama Ashley warned goalkeeper Harry Seaden’s gloves ten minutes before the break, they went in at half-time in a commanding position. That was threatened in the 52nd minute when Egil Kaja halved the deficit, just seconds after Will Nightingale’s header bounced back off the crossbar.
Five minutes later the match was all-square as Kaja found Pingling and he smashed a fierce shot beyond Seaden, and he had the opportunity to put the Dons in front on 70 minutes when a well-worked move ended with a shot narrowly wide.
Against that backdrop, Southend grabbed a winner with a little over a quarter-of-an-hour remaining. Taylor Curran was fouled as he awaited the delivery of a corner and Batlokwa stepped up to slot home the spot-kick. Blues are in action again on Tuesday against Swindon Town.
Southend United U23s: Harry Seaden, Elvis Bwomono, Tom Clifford, Michael Klass, Taylor Curran, Stephen Hendrie, Renei Batlokwa, Dru Yearwood, Norman Wabo (Emile Acquah), Harry Phillips (Nico Cotton), Amadou Ba.