SOUTHEND United’s under 23 side fought back from two goals down to triumph 5-2 at Harlow Town in the third round of the Essex Senior Cup tonight.

Goals from Tom Hitchcock and JJ Da Cruz put Harlow in control at half-time.

But Blues hit back after the break with Norman Wabo bagging a brace and Isaac Hutchinson, Harry Phillips and Eren Kinali all scoring to secure the club’s first win in the competition since the 2012/13 season.

And coach Kevin Maher was thrilled to see the Shrimpers make it through.

“It’s nice to get over the line,” said Maher.

“It was two very different halves.

“We made chances in the first half but we just didn’t take them.

“We were disappointed with the goals we conceded but credit to the players because they responded in the second half.

“We got five goals and could have had more so they showed really good character in the second half.”

Maher opted to bring striker Amadou Ba on at half-time and the former Blues midfielder felt the French forward made a big difference.

“Ama helped coming on because he stretches the game,” said Maher.

“He was unlucky not to start and so was Eren to be fair.

“But when he came on he made room for others with his hard work.

“He made room for Norman, Harry and Isaac and I’m really pleased.”

Attacking midfielder Phillips played a key part in the second half fightback with two assists and a goal.

And Maher is happy to see the youngster back to full fitness.

“Harry has obvious quality and he’s getting his fitness back now,” said Maher.

“He’s missed a lot of football but he got 60 last week and 90 minutes tonight which is good for him.

“Notoriously these games are hard for our players because they wouldn’t really come up against challenges like this all season.

“It’s physical and you have to compete.

“It’s real football though and they have to get used to that.”

Harlow began the tie brightly and opened the scoring after just 13 minutes with Hitchcock curling home a fine effort from 16 yards.

Blues hit back with Phillips playing in Wabo whose low shot was saved by Harlow goalkeeper Richard Hayward before Michael Klass sent a well-struck shot over from long range.

Wabo then curled an effort wide of the right post from 20 yards before he missed a huge chance to equalise when he rounded the advancing Hayward only to fire wide of the right post when the goal was gaping.

Harlow soon took advantage and doubled their lead in the 41st minute when Da Cruz headed home from 12 yards.

The shell-shocked Shrimpers responded by making a change at the break with Ba replacing Renei Batlokwa.

And Blues immediately got back into the game with Wabo stabbing the ball into the top left hand corner of the net from 10 yards.

Wabo then had a swerving shot saved by Hayward before Hutchinson sent a 20 yard shot inches wide of the left post.

With the Shrimpers remaining on top, Phillips soon saw a powerful effort tipped onto the crossbar by Hayward before the visitors equalised on the hour mark with Phillips teeing up Hutchinson to fire home from 20 yards.

Two minutes later, Blues went in front when Phillips was brought down in the box and took the resulting penalty himself.

Phillips’ spot-kick was saved low down to his left by Hayward but the midfielder reacted sharply to score from the resulting rebound.

The Shrimpers then made it three goals in the space of four minutes when Phillips played in Wabo who rounded Hayward before firing home from a narrow angle.

Hutchinson, Phillips and Klass were then also denied by Hayward before substitute Kinali completed the scoring in stoppage time, netting a low shot after producing a sublime piece of skill.

Southend United: Bishop, Humphreys, Curran, Howard, Clifford, Batlokwa (Ba 46), Pianim (Bedford 80), Klass, Hutchinson (Kinali 80), Phillips, Wabo.

Subs not used: Bexon & Knock