Southend United’s under-18 side kept their hopes of claiming the EFL Youth Alliance Merit League One title alive with a 2-1 victory over Oxford United at Boots & Laces.

Matt Rush’s brace helped to earn an impressive victory over the U’s in the club’s final home fixture of the season and maintain Southend’s position at the top of the table alongside Swindon Town.

The Robins travel to Oxford for their final fixture on Saturday, while Blues make the journey to Portsmouth and coach Dave Huzzey remains pleased to be in contention for pole position.

“This experience for the boys will be brilliant,” said Huzzey.

“We’ve not been involved in a title race to the last day of the season for a very long time, and never in this new format of how the league runs, so the boys will be excited.

“I’ll be excited but it’s the professionalism that will go and win us the game.

“Swindon have got a massively hard trip to Oxford because we have seen what Oxford are capable of.

“They’re a good side and, if they perform like they did against us, then there’s a chance that Swindon will slip up but we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to grasp that chance.”

The teenage Shrimpers made a fast start in their latest outing with Freddy Eastwood warming the palms of Oxford goalkeeper Max Harris inside the first minute.

Seconds later, Rush drew a scrambling save from Harris after Emile Acquah had flicked a throw-in into his path.

But, with 12 minutes on the clock, Blues broke the deadlock when Rush burrowed into the penalty area and drew a foul from Leon Chamblers-Parillon.

The referee pointed to the spot and Rush brushed himself down before coolly slotting home from 12 yards out.

The Shrimpers remained on top and doubled their lead in the 82nd minute, with Rush again on target.

Eastwood was fouled on the halfway line but the referee played an excellent advantage as the ball ran into the path of Rush.

The second-year scholar advanced towards goal before lashing into the net from 22 yards out.

Oxford hit back two minutes later with skipper Fabio Lopes scoring from the spot but Blues had already done enough to make sure of the win.

Blues U18s: Seaden, Chandler, Biler, Brogan, Mitchell-Nelson, Taylor, Egbri, Stewart, Acquah, Rush, Eastwood (Unwin 88). Subs not used: Taylor, Knock, Osimeh & Mpenga.