SOUTHEND United’s penultimate EFL Youth Alliance South East Conference fixture ended in a 2-0 defeat away to Gillingham on Saturday.

Blues now know that they must defeat AFC Wimbledon at home this weekend in their final match of the first phase of the season in order to secure second spot after conceding a goal in each half against the Gills.

And coach Danny Heath remains determined to end the block of matches on a high. 

“The boys set the target of winning the league, first and foremost,” said Heath.

“Unfortunately, they did not do that, but they gave it their best shot until the end.

"The next target was to win the last two games of the season by performing well, and they’ve now said they’ve got one game left to show what they can do.”

“They need to perform more consistently throughout the 90 minutes, but they deserve to finish second because of the work they’ve put in.

"It’s a good group, on and off the pitch.

"Developing players as people is big at the Academy, and they’ve never made any excuses.”

Southend were downed by a goal on the half-hour mark following a long throw into the penalty area that was not cleared before Gillingham doubled their advantage a quarter-of-an-hour from the end of the encounter.

But Heath felt Blues still showed signs of promise, albeit after a slow start. 

“For the first 10-15 minutes we didn’t really show any composure to get the ball down in windy conditions,” said Heath.

“During the last half-an-hour of the first half the boys played some good stuff and created three good chances.

"They started to complete some excellent passes and their goalkeeper has made some great saves, but in the second half we didn’t impose ourselves on the game.”

“We worked hard right to the end, and you won’t always win the game playing as well as you can.

"The lads rolled their sleeves up, even when they went 2-0 down, but it wasn’t to be.”

Southend United U18s: Purcell, Crowhurst, Arrowsmith, Burkey, Davis (Taylor 60), Wallace, Anyadike (Clayden 60), Brown, K Coker (Quamina 75), O Coker (Sandot 60), Adedoja.