SOUTHEND United’s under 23 team coach Kevin Maher felt his young players would have learnt lessons from their 4-1 defeat to AFC Wimbledon.

A hat-trick from ex Shrimpers loanee Joe Pigott saw the Dons record a convincing victory at Aveley’s Parkside Stadium.

But Maher was certain his side would have taken plenty from the game against more experienced players.

“It was a very strong AFC Wimbledon side with Joe Pigott playing and four or five others from their first team squad but it’s good for our youngsters to be given that kind of test,” said Maher.

“We had two young centre-backs, in Miles Mitchell-Nelson and Sam Knock who played for the under 18s at the weekend.

“It’s good for them to play Saturday, Tuesday and to also test themselves against some very good players.

“We all know Joe Pigott is a good finisher and he showed that again with the goals he got here.”

However, Maher was also pleased with how Blues performed.

“I thought it was a good performance,” said the former Shrimpers midfielder.

“We played well in the first half and it was a really good piece of play which led to us getting the penalty.

“Renei (Batlokwa) put that away nicely and although we didn’t play quite so well in the second half I felt as though we were in the game for most of it.”

Dons came close to taking an early lead when Pigott played in Kane Crichlow whose well struck shot was pushed onto the crossbar by Southend goalkeeper Harry Seaden.

Blues replied with Charlie Kelman and Amadou Ba both going close to scoring before Crichlow was denied by the woodwork for a second time.

However, AFC Wimbledon were not to be denied for long and opened the scoring in the 39th minute with Pigott firing home a penalty after he was fouled by Mitchell-Nelson.

But, five minutes later, the Shrimpers drew back level with a penalty of their own as Batlokwa netted from 12 yards after he was fouled by Rod McDonald.

Both sides pushed to go in front at the start of the second half with Isaac Hutchinson going close for Blues.

But, in the 64th minute, it was the Dons who regained the lead with Pigott netting another neatly taken effort from close range.

Shrimpers striker Kelman soon came close to conjuring up an equaliser before AFC Wimbledon made sure of their win in the 81st minute with Jack Bingham firing home Crichlow’s accurate right wing cross.

However, the Dons were still not finished and they completed the scoring in stoppage time, with Pigott again on target.

The striker - who memorably scored for Blues in the League Two play-off final against Wycombe Wanderers at Wembley in 2015 - curled home an impressive hat-trick to bag his third goal of the game.

Southend United under 23s: Seaden, Howard, Clifford, Klass, Knock, Mitchell-Nelson, Batlokwa, Hutchinson, Ba (Pianim 80), Kelman, Phillips (Kinali 84). Subs: Taylor, Stewart & Eastwood