SOUTHEND & Benfleet’s first team triumphed 3-1 at Upminster seconds to stay top of the Essex Division One table.

Last time the two teams faced each other it was a quick and scrappy game and, with the bare 11, S&B were wary of their rematch with their young opponents.

But this time around the ball was initially caught up in the midfield for a long time, due to strong gusts of wind.

However, Southend soon began to get on top and sent a number of shots wide of the post before they took the lead just before the break.

The goal came from a short corner when a selfless slip from the top of the D by Claire King allowed captain Nicola Bryant to slot the ball home.

S&B managed several more attempts on goal. But, despite a parade of short corners, they were unable to find the back of the goal for a second time before the interval as the home side pressured them on short corners with their fast pace.

In the second half, S&B managed to intercept Upminster passes and launch numerous attacks until a short corner was given and Claire King cracked it passed the keeper to make the score 2-0.

Upminster’s attacks then seemed to break down as quickly as they rose and they rarely made it into S&B’s defensive D.

Any attacks that did slip through were snapped up by Jodie Linge, who swept them away to safety.

However, Upminster surprised S&B with a tearaway attack as a lone player sped through the away team’s defence to go one-on-one with Lisa Hawkins before she slipped the ball under the goalkeeper’s arm in unstoppable fashion.

But Southend soon hit back and Kirsty Edmunds weaved her way around several players before smashing home to make it 3-1.

Upminster’s goalscorer then almost cut that lead but her effort was kept out in amazing fashion by Hawkins who ensured S&B marinated a two-goal cushion to come out on top.

Southend’s captain Bryant was named player of the match.

S&B are four points clear of second-placed Phoenix, who beat University of Essex 4-2.

Southend II remain bottom of the table following a 6-0 defeat to fourth-placed Havering II.

>SOUTHEND & Benfleet’s second side saw off Basildon’s fifth team in convincing fashion with a 9-0 win.

The victory left S&B a point clear at the top of Essex Division  4.

Lesley Tonking bagged four goals while Aimee Cole and Isabelle Williams both scored twice before Jo Chesters completed the scoring.

Basildon are bottom of the table, with Southend III eighth. They did not have a match at the weekend.

This Saturday S&B travel to Chelmsford for a top-of-the-table clash in what will probably be a title-deciding game.