SOUTHEND United’s under-18 side edged out local rivals Colchester United in a five-goal thriller at the Garrison ‘B’ Ground to ensure their progress to the knockout stages of the Youth Alliance Cup.

Blues needed to win their final game of the five-match group stage to confirm their place in this week’s second round draw and it took efforts from Hicham Abdellah and captain Kane Ferdinand, as well as an early own goal, to outscore the hosts in a typically feisty derby encounter.

Southend took the lead in the 13th minute from a Julian Okai flag-kick delivered from the right flank.

Both Anthony Furlonge and Ferdinand attacked the winger’s cross, but it was ex-Southend youngster Freddie Ladapo who met the ball and inadvertently headed it against the right-hand post.

Goalkeeper Shaun Phillips, in his desperation to gather to loose ball, accidentally spilled it over the line before scooping it back, although the assistant referee had already indicated that an own goal had been scored.

But Colchester equalised after 24 minutes. Mason Stewart’s corner was allowed to find its way to Craig Arnott and, given the time to control and turn, he made no mistake with his finish from close range.

This seemed to spark Blues back into life, and Ferdinand met Okai’s 26th-minute corner with a bullet header, only for Stewart to clear off of the goal-line.

However, in the 56th minute, Southend were back in front when Okai swung a corner in to the back post and Furlonge met the ball with a towering header.

Abdellah gambled to make contact with the ball ahead of Phillips and divert it into the net for his first goal of the season.

Ferdinand then also recorded his opening strike of the campaign 12 minutes later.

And for the third time it was a set-piece that proved Colchester’s undoing as Okai hung another corner up to the back post again, with Louis Baucutt this time nodding down and Ferdinand prodding into the bottom left-hand corner.

Arnott set up a nervous final quarter-of-an-hour when he raced on to substitute Ross Gilfedder’s pass to make it 3-2 but Blues — who fielded Reece Hall, brother of first team winger Ryan, as a late substitute — held on to triumph and advance in to the next round.

Southend United: Bentley, Furlonge, Nesbitt, Hyland (Paxman 83), Baucutt, Ferdinand, Abdellah, Woodyard, Ofori-Acheampong ( Mackay 90), Smith (Hall 78), Okai. Substitutes not used: Auger & Coker.