SOUTHEND United assistant manager Graham Coughlan says he does not understand the criticism of the Checkatrade Trophy.

The Shrimpers head to Peterborough United in the second round of the competition tonight.

And Coughlan insists Blues are desperate to go through - despite many supporters’ ongoing frustration with the presence of under-23 teams in the Trophy.

“How can you criticise a competition that has the prize of a Wembley final?,” questioned Coughlan.

“I don’t understand where the criticism comes from if I’m honest.

“Yes, attendances might not be as big for these games but for me it’s an exciting competition we want to achieve in because we want to reach Wembley.

“Most League One and League Two clubs can’t reach Wembley in the FA Cup and League Cup - although Bradford might say differently because they got there a few years ago.

“What they did is very rare but the Checkatrade Trophy gives us a genuine opportunity to get to Wembley, so that’s what we’re aiming for.”

Blues make the trip to London Road on the back of a 2-0 win against Oldham Athletic on Saturday.

And Coughlan feels the Shrimpers are starting to hit top form.

“We’re in decent form and I think the last three games have been our best of the season, even though the results don’t back that up,” said Coughlan.

“We’ve played really well, we’ve created a lot and truth be told we should have got nine points out of nine - not five. It’s been very positive and there’s a buzz around the place which we want to keep going.

“We have a strong squad so whatever team we pick will be strong.”

Blues are expected to be without Michael Kightly for this evening’s encounter after the winger suffered a hamstring problem against Oldham at the weekend.

However, Michael Timlin returns to the squad after serving a one match suspension, while Anthony Wordsworth and Nile Ranger are also among those pushing for a starting slot.