SOUTHEND United’s under-23 coach Kevin Maher has urged his side to learn lessons from their 3-2 defeat against AFC Wimbledon.

A brace from Shrimpers striker Norman Wabo was not enough to stop the Dons winning 3-2 at Boots & Laces.

But Maher was still pleased with how Blues’ youngsters performed against more senior opposition.

“Sometimes you have to accept that you will come up against a team who are that bit more physical than you,” said Maher.

“They are bigger, more intelligent and more senior so they know the darker arts of the game.

“As they get older we’ll teach the younger lads that and if they go higher they’ll have to learn it going into the first team.”

The Dons included 36-year-old defender Paul Robinson in their starting line-up along with former England striker Carlton Cole.

The 34-year-old - who trained with the Shrimpers earlier on this season - headed the visitors in front.

But Maher was happy with how his young defenders performed.

“I thought they were excellent,” said the former Blues midfielder.

“We conceded early on from a set piece but I thought they handled him (Cole) brilliantly for the majority of the game only to be done by two other set pieces.

“It was a great learning curve for them and throughout the game they were excellent.”

Cole’s early header was cancelled out by a fine finish from Wabo, who then put the Shrimpers in front with a fine individual effort in the 36th minute.

However, the Dons hit back to equalise in the 57th minute when Robinson headed home Anthony Hartigan’s right wing corner despite the best efforts of Stephen Hendrie on the goal-line.

And Wimbledon then secured the win with a close range effort from Ashley Ossama.