SOUTHEND United’s youth team coach Dave Huzzey remained ‘immensely proud’ of his young Shrimpers - despite them suffering cup final heartache against Exeter City.

Blues’ under 18 side were beaten 2-1 by the Grecians in the area final of the EFL Youth Alliance Cup on Saturday.

But the Shrimpers were still able to equal their best ever run in the competition.

And Huzzey was quick to praise his young players.

“I’m disappointed, I’m frustrated and I’m upset, but more than anything I’m proud of what we’ve achieved, both with players playing for the first-team and also putting in a performance like that in the area final,” said Huzzey.

“It’s a credit to the football club but this was a final with two good teams cancelling each other out and not giving each other a yard.

“The game was very quick and the wind made it a spectacle in terms of the speed of the game.

“But I feel it may be a bit of a learning curve for us in making sure that we do the basics right because you almost can’t affect anything else in the wind.”

“We had to make sure we got goal-side of our men, make sure we won the second ball and time our movement right.

“All of those things were important and in the end that’s what undid us.

“It’s a shame because I’m immensely proud and I wasn’t negative towards the boys at the end.”

On a bitterly cold morning at Blues’ training ground, there was an even opening to the contest as the two teams adapted to windy conditions.

Exeter fashioned the first chance when Southend skipper Sam Knock lost out to Reiss Taylor-Randle in midfield and the winger advanced to the edge of the penalty area before shooting straight at Blues goalkeeper Harry Seaden.

Six minutes later City went close again when Jack Stafford fired over following a right-wing corner, but Southend responded through Matt Rush, who beat goalkeeper Felix Norman to Freddy Eastwood’s free-kick and glanced a header narrowly wide of the right-hand post.

In reply, Seaden did well to tip James Dodds’ free-kick against the left post before the Shrimpers broke the deadlock in the 50th minute when Miles Mitchell-Nelson headed home Ide Osimeh’s right wing free-kick after beating the keeper to the ball.

But two minutes later, Exeter drew back level when Theo Simpson converted a fine cross from the left hand side.

And, 12 minutes from the time, the visitors bagged what proved to be the winning goal with Dodds firing home from the penalty spot after a foul by Eastwood.

But Huzzey felt the cup final could easily have gone either way.

“I think we’ve been undone by the fine lines of football,” said Huzzey.

“Unfortunately we’ve come off losing in the end but I’m so proud that we got this far.”

Southend United under18s: Seaden, Dabbs, Osimeh, Brogan, Knock, Mitchell-Nelson, Egbri, Stewart, Hyde (Mpenga 71), Rush, Eastwood.

Substitutes not used: Taylor, Biler, Unwin & Wallace.