SOUTHEND United youngster Lewis Gard has expressed his joy at making his first team debut.

The 18-year-old was brought off the bench towards the end of the Shrimpers’ 3-0 win at Oldham Athletic on Tuesday night.

And Gard - who has been with Blues since the age of eight - was thrilled to work his way onto the pitch.

“It was really good to get on but it was a bit of a shock of me as well to be honest,” said Gard, who lives in Langdon Hills.

“A couple of weeks I could never have imagined this would happened.

“I have been training with the first team and was with the squad for the MK Dons game.

“But to be on the bench at Oldham and then get on was something else and it was a great feeling when it happened.”

Gard replaced Stephen McLaughlin in the closing stages at Boundary Park.

But he first had to wait for the ball to finally go out of play.

“I was standing there for a couple of minutes and I did worry at one point that I wasn’t going to get on,” said Gard.

“The manager was making jokes about it too and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see the ball go out for a goal kick!” However, once he entered the action, Gard saw plenty of the ball and was pleased to be able to get so many touches.

“The ball stayed on my side after I came on which was good but the boys were all telling me I should’ve had a shot when it broke to me just outside the box,” said Gard.

“I was trying to set up Simon Cox for his hat-trick but I was happy to be involved.

“I was warming up with Miles (Mitchell-Nelson) just a few moments before and we joked about good it would be if one of us came on.

“Then I suddenly heard my name shouted.”

And Gard is now keen to build on his debut.

“Once you get a taste for it you want more,” said the former St Thomas More School pupil.

“I watched Southend quite a bit as a kid and particularly remember going to both of the Chelsea games in the FA Cup.

“I went to school in Southend as well so it means a lot for me to have come through at the club and made my debut.

“But we have two more games left now this season and if I could be involved in them as well then it would be brilliant.”