Phil Brown will be celebrating a year in charge of Southend United on Tuesday morning with an even bigger smile on his face, after watching his side return to winning ways, beating Oxford United 3-0 on Monday night.
Will Atkinson opened the scoring in the ninth minute, before Lee Barnard slotted home from the penalty spot to grab his first goal since returning to the club on loan from Southampton.
Oxford’s goalkeeper Ryan Clarke made a string of second-half saves to keep the score at 2-0, but Jamar Loza got a stunning, and deserved goal on his home debut to make it 3-0 and complete the convincing win.
Phil Brown handed Loza his first start since joining on loan, in place of Freddy Eastwood. Loza line up in attack, alongside Barnard, with Michael Timlin out on the left of midfield and Atkinson centrally.
Loza was immediately in to the action and after closing down Sam Long and winning the ball back, his touch was jus too heavy and allowed Ryan Clarke to smother the loose ball.
The young striker was at the heart of all things good, and it was he who played a telling part in Blues opening the scoring.
His cross found Michael Timlin, but the midfielder’s touch was heavy. Luckily for Blues it fell for Atkinson, who side footed past Clarke.
Loza was again involved as Blues doubled their lead. He got on the end of Jake Wright’s backpass and was brought down in the area by Clarke.
Barnard stepped up to send Clarke the wrong way and grab his first Southend United goal since returning to the club.
There was a real spring in the step of every Blues player, and Timlin went close to making it 3-0. The midfielder saw his half-volley from 20-yards well saved by Clarke.
Oxford had rarely threatened, but should’ve pulled one back in the 27th minute. David Hunt’s corner found James Constable unmarked at the back post, but the striker volleyed wildly over the bar.
After playing a big part in the first two goals, Loza almost grabbed a goal of his own. The striker turned excellently inside the area to open up the space, but Clarke got down well to smother his shot.
The first opening of the second-half went the way of Oxford, but Constable could only chest inches wide from Hunt’s long throw.
Blues raced up the other end and went just as close, but Hurst’s drive went just over the crossbar.
Hurst went even closer ten or so minutes later, but his curling effort, after beating Hunt superbly, was tipped over by Clarke.
Oxford’s stopper made an even better save from the resulting corner, as he somehow kept out John Egan’s header from Hurst’s ball in.
Clarke then kept out Leonard’s deflected strike with the air of the crossbar as Blues searched for a third goal.
That came when Loza went on a solo run, beating two defenders with sheer persistence before calming clipping the ball over Clarke.
It was a fully deserved goal for the young striker, and it rounded off a terrific night for Blues as they ended their winless run.
Blues: Bentley; White, Coker, Sokolik, Egan; Timlin (Laird 68), Atkinson, Leonard, Hurst; Loza, Barnard (Straker 87).
Subs: Smith, Eastwood, Payne, Prosser, Clifford