A BELOW par Southend United slumped out of the Checkatrade Trophy tonight, losing 2-0 to Portsmouth at Roots Hall.

The Shrimpers had been hoping to build on last Tuesday’s exciting win against Gillingham.

But their inconsistent form continued with a disappointing defeat against their heavily changed opponents.

Portsmouth - who currently top the League One table - took just 93 seconds to take the lead as Dan Smith’s right wing cross picked out Louis Dennis who headed home via the underside of the crossbar from just eight yards.

Dennis, who had a loan spell with Blues’ near neighbours Canvey Island during the 2012/13 season, was one of 10 changes made to the visitors’ starting line-up by Portsmouth manager Kenny Jackett.

But the new look side remained on top with Bradley Lethbridge sending a well struck 18 yard shot over the crossbar before David Wheeler wasted a huge chance to double Portsmouth’s lead as he fired wide of the left post when clean through on goal.

Blues hit back in the 38th minute when a well-worked free-kick from Michael Kightly saw Simon Cox tee up Theo Robinson but his cross-shot flew across the face of goal with Taylor Moore unable to provide the finishing touch at the far post.

After surviving the scare, Portsmouth replied with Christian Burgess having a header nodded off the line by Robinson before Blues replied with John White registering their first shot on target with a half volley from 20 yards which was easily held by Alex Bass.

But Portsmouth immediately replied and doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time when captain Gareth Evans netted with a scorching 20 yard shot which flew into the back of the South Stand net.

In a bid to get back into the game, Blues boss Chris Powell made a double change at the break with Stephen McLaughlin and Timothee Dieng entering the action in place of Kightly and Cox.

However, it was still Portsmouth who threatened next with Dennis having a long range shot smothered by the fit-again Ted Smith, who was making his first start since suffering a shoulder injury in August 2017.

Moments later, Adam May fired a golden opportunity over the crossbar from six yards before the Shrimpers suffered another blow on the hour mark when impressive on loan centre-back Moore limped off injured and was replaced by Isaac Hutchinson.

The change saw Dieng, who had come on in an attacking midfield role, revert to the heart of the back four but the Shrimpers still struggled to create clear-cut chances going forward.

As a result, Portsmouth goalkeeper Bass remained untroubled between the sticks with McLaughlin and Stephen Hendrie firing over late on.