MATT Rush and Emile Acquah both bagged braces as Southend United’s under 23 side beat Fleetwood Town 4-1 in a Premier League Cup qualifier at Roots Hall this afternoon.

The Shrimpers included Jason Demetriou and Liam Ridgewell in their starting line-up.

But it was their two young strikers who caught the eye.

Blues opened the scoring after just eight minutes when the fit-again Demetriou delivered a fine right wing cross which Acquah headed into the roof of the net from close range.

Moments later, the visitors came close to equalising when Barry Baggley saw his effort cleared off the goal-line by Shrimpers defender Ridgewell.

However, the visitors were not to be denied for long and they drew back level in the 23rd minute when Harvey Saunders netted with an impressive effort from fully 40 yards after a defensive mix up left goalkeeper Harry Seaden out of position.

But Blues recovered well and regained the lead in the 36th minute with Acquah netting his second header of the afternoon.

The targetman was picked out by a fine left wing cross from Tom Clifford and glanced his effort into the bottom right hand corner of the net from close range.

The Shrimpers then extended their lead on the stroke of half-time when Terrell Egbri’s fine right wing cross was converted by Matt Rush.

Blues made their first change of the afternoon with 56 minutes on the clock as Ide Osimeh replaced Demetriou.

However, Fleetwood threatened next when an error from Ridgewell sent Saunders clean through on goal but the striker’s effort was impressively kept out by Seaden.

The Shrimpers immediately replied with Freddy Eastwood sending a deflected effort against the crossbar.

But, just moments later, Eastwood helped Southend extend their lead as his pass teed up Rush to score his second goal of the afternoon.

Rush then came close to completing a hat-trick when his long- range effort clipped the top of the crossbar before Seaden did well to deny Saunders in the closing stages.

Blues will now host Scunthorpe United or Shrewsbury Town in the second qualifying round of the competition. 

Southend United: Seaden, Demetriou (Osimeh 56), Taylor, Ridgewell, Clifford, Egbri, Brogan, Pianim (Stewart 63), Eastwood, Rush, Acquah

Subs not used: Nelson, Grossart & Unwin