Crewe Alexandra - conquerors of Doncaster Rovers in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in December - went all the way to capture the trophy, yesterday.
Crewe had beaten Rovers on penalties after tying with them in normal time.
Yesterday, early goals in each half from Luke Murphy and Max Clayton were enough for Alex to claim Wembley glory for the second successive season.
Steve Davis’ men triumphed by the same scoreline in last term’s League Two play off-final against Cheltenham and they overcame a Southend side battling for revenge having been Alex’s semi-final victims 11 months ago.
A superb strike from Railwaymen captain Murphy opened the scoring after six minutes and the League One side threatened to run riot in a rampant opening quarter of an hour. But Southend imposed their physicality to work a way into the contest and Tamika Mkandawire passed up a glorious headed opportunity to level before half-time.
Bilel Mohsni claimed he was fouled by Murphy in the build up to the that goal and the midfielder almost reduced the arrears shortly afterwards.
Both teams were boosted before kick-off by the return of their captains from injury. Southend skipper Chris Barker came in at left-back following an Achilles complaint, while opposite number Murphy shook off a groin problem to resume in Crewe’s midfield as one of five changes made by Davis.
Alex were quickly out of the blocks - a deft pass by Byron Moore finding England U19 striker Clayton in the area where Shrimpers goalkeeper Paul Smith was out well to save with his legs, but the opening goal would soon arrive in some style.
Moore’s corner from the right was stroked low towards the edge of the area from the right and Harry Davis dummied the pass for Murphy to steer into the top corner despite Anthony Straker’s presence on the goal-line.
Moments later the whole ground stood and applauded in a pre-planned tribute to the family of absent Crewe defender Adam Dugdale, whose newborn son sadly passed away at the end of the week.
Smith fumbled as Southend dealt uneasily with further set-piece pressure in the 13th minute before Phil Brown’s men finally came into the game with three corners in quick succession, Mohsni heading off target from the latter.
Shrimpers fans celebrated what they thought was the award of a penalty before the half hour when Britt Assombalonga tangled with Railwaymen defender Mark Ellis. Referee Nigel Miller correctly signalled for a goal-kick. The Blues should have been level nine minute before the break, but Mkandawire sent a free header over from Barker’s corner. That momentum was spurned early in the second half as Southend gifted Crewe their second.
Former United player Ryan Creswell played the ball into midfield when Mohsni was slow to react and bundled aside by Murphy before Chuks Aneke and Moore combined to leave Clayton with a tap-in.
Mohsni immediately looked to make amends but his header from point-blank range was superbly diverted away from the goalmouth by Davis.
Brown brought on Ben Reeves and Barry Corr for Barker and Mohsni and Corr headed wide when his fellow substitute played in Gavin Tomlin to cross, while Clayton arched a shot wide.