SOUTHEND United suffered a painful first round elimination from the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at 10 man AFC Wimbledon tonight, losing 4-2 on penalties after being held to a 2-2 draw.
The Shrimpers seemed set to surge through to the second round when a brace from talented teenager Jack Payne put them 2-1 in front at the Kingsmeadow Stadium.
But former Blues skipper Adam Barrett returned to haunt his former side, netting a stunning late strike to take the tie to penalties.
And, after both Lee Barnard and Ben Coker missed for Southend, it was the Dons who came out on top, despite having midfielder Harry Pell sent off after just 18 minutes.
Up until then, the Shrimpers had looked in control and Phil Brown’s side took just five minutes to open the scoring, with a well worked move down the right hand side.
Myles Weston collected John White’s pass before speeding past Barrett and delivering a low cross in to the path of Shaq Coulthirst.
The on loan Tottenham Hotspur failed to make a clean connection with the ball but his scuffed effort fell perfectly in to the path of Jack Payne who prodded home a low shot from 10 yards.
The effort was the young midfielder’s first in senior football and he was almost celebrating a second just moments later when he burst in to the box and fired wide of the right post.
Coulthirst was next to trouble the AFC Wimbledon defence as his powerful low shot was smartly saved by James Shea down to his left hand side.
But, having survived the scares, the hosts drew back level in the 16th minute, with Kevin Sainte-Luce on target.
The striker was picked out by an intelligent right wing corner from Tom Beere and fired a first time shot in to the bottom right hand corner of the net from just inside the penalty area.
Blues immediately got back on top with Weston curling a low, 20 yard straight at Shea before the Shrimpers’ hopes of victory were boosted in the 18th minute when the Dons were reduced to 10 men.
Midfielder Pell was the man to be dismissed for a shocking, high challenge on David Worrall.
However, despite their numerical disadvantage, it was the Dons who threatened next with Adebayo Azeez heading a right wing cross from Barry Fuller just inches over the crossbar.
The hosts were then left fuming just before the break when Azeez went to ground inside the penalty area while under pressure from Mads Ibenfeldt, only for referee Charles Breakspear to show him a yellow card after judging he dived.
The relieved Shrimpers soon replied and almost regained the lead when Coulthirst’s header was cleared off the line by former Southend defender Mark Phillips.
Southend were not to be denied for long though and, six minutes in to the second half, they regained the lead with Payne again on target.
The youngster collected a quickly taken free-kick from Coker before advancing to the edge of the penalty area and unleashing a low, right foot which flew in off the inside of the right post.
The Shrimpers then almost extended their lead with Phillips coming close to scoring an own goal as his miscued clearance was saved by the legs of Shea.
And, with 65 minutes on the clock, Payne came close to completing a hat-trick when he nutmegged Phillips before seeing his low, right foot shot impressively tipped wide of the left post by Shea.
But, following the keeper’s fine saves, Wimbledon nearly netted when Azeez burst in to the box and saw his effort, from a narrow angle, blocked by Bentley’s legs.
His opposite number, Shea, was then also called in to action when he blocked a low effort from Weston before he did well to block a powerful effort from Coulthirst.
Blues boss Brown then opted to bring on both Ryan Leonard and Lee Barnard in quick succession.
And Leonard was then also denied by Shea as his stunning 30 yard shot was impressively tipped over the crossbar.
But the missed opportunities were to cost Southend dear as Barrett bagged a brilliant equaliser with a well struck shot from 25 yards to take the tie to a penalty shoot out.
Payne and Barry Corr, who came off the bench, both netted from the spot for Blues.
However, Barnard and Coker both saw their efforts saved by Shea and, with Wimbledon scoring all four penalties, it was them who made it through to the second round.