Southend’s Leasing.com Trophy hopes hang by a thread after they were beaten 2-0 by Brighton & Hove Albion u21s at Roots Hall.
The visitors had most of the ball in the opening half and went close early on when Peter Gwargis’ free-kick had to be tipped around the post by goalkeeper Nathan Bishop.
Blues had made nine changes to the side that lost to Accrington on Saturday and their first shot in anger came from Stephen McLaughlin who fired wide from long range.
After a surging run forward by Andre Blackman, McLaughlin then got on the end of a dinked ball through by Brandon Goodship but the Irishman’s effort was well blocked at the near post.
Neither side could make the breakthrough before the interval, but the Seagulls would capitalise on a mistake at the back from Blues to take the lead early after the interval.
A slip from Rob Kiernan at the worst possible moment allowed Taylor Richards to get on to the loose ball, cutting onto his left foot before firing the ball low and into the bottom corner.
Having gone in front, the visitors had chances to extend their lead with Longman the main threat, heading one effort wide before missing a glorious one-on-one chance which again went wide.
Caretaker boss Gary Waddock threw on three attacking substitutions with Stephen Humphrys, Terrell Egbri and Emile Acquah coming on, and Acquah had a superb opportunity to level go begging.
A cross from the right found Acquah in the six-yard box, but a fantastic last-ditch tackle from Warren O’Hora prevented the young striker from grabbing Blues an equaliser.
Egbri, who’d been impressing in Southend’s u23s side of late, then rattled the frame of the goal as Blues pushed forward, seeing his effort from distance come thundering back off the face of the post.
But Southend’s hopes of forcing an equaliser were quashed when Brighton doubled their advantage from a well-taken set-piece routine with a little under 10 minutes to go.
Jordan Davies’ near-post corner found the run of O’Hora who flicked the ball up and over Bishop and into the back of the net, securing Brighton their second 2-0 win of the group stages.
Blues XI: Bishop, Hyam, Dieng (Acquah 61’), McLaughlin (Egbri 61’), Goodship, Kiernan, Ndukwu (Humphrys 73’), Mantom (C), Shaughnessy, Demetriou, Blackman. Subs Not Used: Oxley, Bwomono, Hamilton, Taylor
Brighton & Hove Albion u21s XI: Steele, Baluta, Richards (Cashman 78’), Cochrane (C), A Davies, J Davies, O’Hora, Gwargis (Radulovic 62’), Roberts, Longman (Yapi 86’), Jenks. Subs Not Used: Keto, Freestone, Spong, Leahy
Referee: Sam Purkiss
Assistants: Michael Webb & Nicholas Cooper
Fourth Official: Paul Yates
Southend United: None
Brighton & Hove Albion u21s: Taylor Richards 50’, Warren O’Hora 81’
Southend United: Jason Demetriou 5’, Luke Hyam 56’
Brighton & Hove Albion u21s: Archie Davies 56’
Attendance: 641 (44 Away Fans)