LEWIS Gard played an hour on his return from long-term injury but could stop Southend United’s under 23 side suffering a 5-1 defeat to AFC Wimbledon.

Gard, who had been out for 16 months with a serious cruciate ligament injury, played 60 minutes at Boots & Laces.

And Blues coach Craig Fagan was pleased to see the midfielder back in action.

“Lewis played an hour and he looked good, “said Fagan.

“Technically he’s very good and he can certainly handle the football so it was good to see him back out there again after so long out of action.

“But we won’t be rushing him.

“We will build him up slowly and be sensible in the way we deal with his workload.

“We don’t have a game next week but there’s one the week after and we’ll look to get more minutes for him in that.”

Gard lined up in a young Shrimpers side with several of the under 23 players involved with the first team at Peterborough United.

But, despite the result, Fagan felt it had been a valuable lesson for his team.

“It was an opportunity for the young lads to step up and play for the 23s and they will have learnt from this,” said Fagan.

“It was definitely a learning curve for us and Wimbledon certainly played the conditions much better than we did.

“We made a few mistakes and a few bad decisions but the lads will learn from that and we can work on what went wrong.”

O’Shane Stewart bagged Blues’ goal.

Blues: Grossart, Brogan (Eastwood 74), Biler, Klass, Wallace, Osimeh, O Coker, Stewart, Brown, Gard (Anyadike 60), Unwin.