SOUTHEND United's under 18 side coach Danny Heath was left frustrated after his side suffered their first defeat of the EFL Youth Alliance Merit League Two campaign away to Northampton Town.

Blues were beaten 4-2 by the Cobblers.

But Heath felt it was a game the Shrimpers should have taken something from.

“It was a game we could’ve won,” said Heath.

“It was a tough pitch, it was bobbly and hard, but the boys played the conditions well for the first 40 minutes. 

"The biggest lesson for us will be that we’ve got to take our chances.”

Despite the final score-line, Blues broke the deadlock in the 21st minute. 

Demaray Anyadike won the ball in midfield and immediately sprinted forward to hang a cross up to the back post, where Bobby Unwin powerfully nodded down and into the net.

It was just a second goal of the campaign for the winger and the 13th of his youth team career.

Blues were frustrating their opponents, refusing to give them any time on the ball and then turning them around quickly to cause them trouble at the back, although midway through the opening period Collin Andeng Ndi was called upon to make a tumbling save to keep Southend in front.

Shortly after the half-hour mark, Blues should have doubled their advantage.

Quamina was involved again, protecting the ball in an advanced position before finding Sayers, who released Brown with a superb first-time pass.

His shot was palmed away by goalkeeper James Dadge, and Anyadike somehow steered the follow-up the wrong side of the right-hand upright.

It looked as though Southend would be going in at half-time with a slender advantage after dominating the opening period, but that lead was wiped out by a fine Cobblers move as Liam Cross twisted and turned on the left-hand side to deliver an inch-perfect cross for Jack Connor to volley home.

Immediately after the break, Blues wasted a good chance to regain the lead after good work by Unwin on the left-hand side.

His cross picked out Brown but his shot was directed straight at Dyche on the goal-line.

After surviving the scare, the hosts then went on the attack with substitute Miguel Ngwa driving the ball in from the right and Cross converting after Andeng Ndi had stopped Connor from netting at the near post.

In the 55th minute, Northampton stretched their lead against a still shell-shocked Blues team.

Dyche’s long ball forwards was flicked on by Connor, but Ngwa did the hard work, jinking inside from the right-hand side before firing his shot beyond Andeng Ndi at his near post.

Midway through the second half, Blues were handed a route back into the game when Anyadike’s effort was adjudged to have struck Dyche’s hand, and the referee pointed to the penalty spot.

However, Oli Coker’s spot-kick was dragged wide and the deficit remained at two goals.

Southend thought they had chalked one of those off on 70 minutes when Brown poked home Oli Coker’s free-kick at the far post, but the assistant referee’s flag was raised for offside, and instead the away team had to be patient.

Blues did continue to probe, but the fluency of the first half was missing and opportunities were largely restricted to set-pieces.

With three minutes remaining, after Northampton had failed to clear a right-wing corner, centre-half Tommy Davis marked his 40th youth team appearance with his first-ever goal as he swept home the loose ball to halve the arrears and give Southend hope.

Blues threw everything at their hosts in an attempt to preserve their unbeaten record in the Merit League, but their fate was sealed in the fourth minute of additional time when Kai O’Keefe won the ball from Reeve and squared to Tommy Curry, who tucked past the covering Crowhurst on the goal-line.

Blues host Luton Town next Saturday in their final home match of the season, before travelling to Peterborough United to complete the campaign.

Heath’s side remain at the top of the league table, although the chasing pack have games in hand at this stage.

Southend United U18s: Andeng Ndi, Clayden (Adedoja 60), Sayers (Reeve 60), Crowhurst, Davis, Wallace, Anyadike, Brown (Burkey 81), Quamina (K Coker 60), O Coker (Garzon 81), Unwin.