SOUTHEND United’s under-18 side were knocked out of the EFL Youth Alliance Cup by AFC Wimbledon after suffering a narrow 2-1 defeat at Boots & Laces.

Blues fielded five schoolboys from the kick-off, with another two introduced as substitutes during the game, and in some cases members of the squad gave up over three years to their opponents.

But, ultimately, it was a brace from Ayoub Assal during the opening 20 minutes of the tie that proved decisive in the final result, despite Bobby Unwin pulling a goal back on the stroke of half-time.

And skipper Jimmy Wallace felt the Shrimpers were unfortunate to lose the quarter-final clash.

“It was a tough match as we had a really young team out there but I thought they all did well and we were unlucky not to get a result,” said Wallace.

“The youngsters that have come in have got a lot of confidence but we’ve got to do a good job of talking to them and encouraging them during the game.

“They’ve played well and I think they’ve improved the squad at times.”

Wallace wore the armband for the third game in succession.

And the defender is pleased to have been given the extra responsibility.

“I’m honoured to wear the skipper’s armband and it’s been good,” said Wallace.

“I was captain throughout my under-16 season but I was with the under-18s quite a lot.

“I feel like I’m a good leader on the pitch.

“I like to encourage players, especially the younger ones, and I want everyone to do the best that they can so I will help them do that.

“We can all learn from playing against more experienced players too.”

Southend United: Taylor, Clayden (Chandler 68), Biler, Crowhurst, Wallace, Shala, Unwin, Baffour-Akoto Yeboah (Amir 74), K Coker, Lambourne, Arrowsmith (Adedoja 60) Substitute not used: Grossart