JULIAN Okai marked his Southend United swansong with a goal but Ricky Duncan’s under-18 team still went down to a 2-1 defeat at Brighton and Hove Albion.

The Rochford-based wide man scored the 10th goal of his youth team career in his 49th appearance for the club at that level before Duncan revealed that the three second-year scholars who had not been offered deals would be allowed to seek alternative employment before the end of the campaign.

“Julian has been here for a long time, so it is especially sad for him, but it is only right that we now let him, Duane [Ofori-Acheampong] and Hicham [Abdellah] look for new clubs,” said Blues’ Head of Youth.

In addition to nearly a half-century of games for the under 18s dating back as far as April 2007, Okai made 16 reserve team appearances, scoring twice, and played as a substitute in the FA Cup for the first team at Gillingham in October 2009.

The highlight of Ofori-Acheampong’s career was netting in each of the first four rounds of the FA Youth Cup as Southend earned a spot in the last 16 of the competition and a dream tie at Anfield against Liverpool this term.

He leaves having scored 20 times in 31 starts for the under-18s and three times in seven matches for the second-string.

Abdellah was the most recent capture of the three, signing the second-year of a scholarship after trialling with the club in April 2010.

He featured 22 times in all for the youth team, bagging three goals, as well as featuring five times for Graham Coughlan’s reserve side.

While those players will be looking for pastures new, 10 new scholars have agreed two-year deals at Boots and Laces.

But they will come in on the back of a rare defeat for Blues as Brighton came from behind to grab all three points.

Okai fired Southend in to the lead in the 11th minute, slightly against the run of play, but Brighton equalised when Conor Hider slammed a shot in to the bottom right-hand corner of the net from eight yards.

Worse followed just before the half-hour mark for Southend as Teddy Nesbitt conceded a corner and Albion took the lead courtesy of a fine training ground routine.

MacFarlane feigned to come short, but instead Redwood found Jack Strong on the edge of the penalty area and he floated the ball to the back post, where Tom Vickers rose unchallenged to head past Wootton.

And that condemned Southend to their first defeat in more than a month.