Southend United went down 3-0 at Port Vale on Friday night, as set-pieces continued to be the Achilles heel of the Blues.
Goals from Carl Dickinson and an own-goal from a corner and free-kick respectively came either side of a Michel O’Connor strike that handed Phil Brown’s men their third consecutive defeat on the road.
A late consolation goal from Sam McQueen did little the lift the spirits, and a stoppage time penalty miss from David Mooney summed up a miserable night for the Blues
Phil Brown named an unchanged squad from the side that defeated table toppers Burton Albion on Monday, lining up in a 4-3-1-2 formation against the Valiants.
On a freezing cold night at Vale Park, Southend looked to get the blood pumping as they pressed Vale from the off.
Payne once again looking dangerous in the hole, linking up well with the front pairing of Barnett and Hunt.
A couple of early chances came about for the Blues with both Payne and Wordsworth having goalbound shots blocked inside the opening ten minutes.
Port Vale’s first opportunity of the game came in the 9th minute, as Dodds hit a sweet swerving strike on the half-volley, though Bentley, seeing the shot all the way was equal to the effort from 20-yards.
The home side followed that up with another chance on 13’ as a Kennedy cross found O’Connor towering up on the back post, the midfielder could only nod over however.
Barnett, fresh from his goal of the season contender against Burton, tried to add another to his collection on 16’. His 20-yard strike zipped just over the bar.
It was Vale who were take the lead though just before the 20-minute mark, and set-pieces continued to be the thorn in the side of Southend as Dickinson netted from a corner.
A left wing corner was flicked on at the near post and Dickinson claimed the final touch to give his side the advantage.
The Blues looked to try and carve an opening, and at one stage it looked like the referee had given them a penalty on the half-hour, as Payne’s shot was blocked by a possible hand.
As the referee blew his whistle and ran towards the penalty spot, it looked for all the world that he’s given a spot-kick, but surprisingly gave the decision the other way.
That was to prove a pivotal moment, as Port Vale made it two on 36’. O’Connor the scorer this time as his right footed effort was drilled past Bentley from the edge of the box.
Wordsworth went within a whisker of halving the deficit minutes after falling behind. The ball fell to the midfielder in the box, and he hammered the ball against the post.
Again, another costly moment as Southend fell three behind on 39. An O’Connor free-kick from 30-yards on the left seemed to go straight in as Bentley was left bamboozled by the runners.
The home side skipped in to the dressing room at half time, three goals to the good.
Half-time Port Vale 3-0 Southend United.
After Worrall replaced Timlin shortly before the half, Phil Brown made his second change at the start of the second half, as McQueen replaced Payne.
The Blues dominated possession, spraying the ball about looking to find that elusive ball that would open the door to a miraculous comeback.
Clear-cut chances themselves though were proving harder to come by as the conditions grew colder.
Atkinson found himself in the book on 56’ as he committed a late challenge on Foley on the right corner of the box.
From the resulting dead-ball situation, the Blues nearly found themselves dead and buried as Barrett almost deflected the ball played in to the box past his own keeper. Fortunately, Bentley got down well to save.
Southend’s top-scorer Mooney replaced Hunt on the hour-mark as Phil Brown tried to force a way back in to the match.
It was Vale who went closest to scoring next however, Foley’s shot defected just over the crossbar on 68’.
Shortly after, sub Hooper tried his luck, but again missed the upright.
The Valiants continued to look for a spectacular fourth, Dodds trying his luck from 20-yards that had Bentley stretching, but didn’t have the goal bulging with 20 minutes remaining.
Hooper again went close on 78’ as the fall bell kindly to him 25-yards from goal. The forward advanced before sending a shot just wide of the post.
The game took till stoppage time to come back to life as Sam McQueen reduced the deficit after hitting home following a Bolger knockdown from a Coker free-kick.
The Blues moments later were given the chance to make it two as Mooney was fouled in the box. The Irishman stood up to take it, but he smacked it against the bar.
The Blues will now look to Crewe Alexandra on Tuesday to get back to winning ways
Southend United: Bentley, O’Neill, Bolger, Barratt ©, Coker, Atkinson, Timlin (Worrall 45’), Wordsworth, Payne (McQueen 45’), Hunt (Mooney 60’), Barnett.
Subs: Smith, Thompson, Worrall, Mooney, McLaughlin, McQueen, Deegan.
Port Vale: Neal, Purkiss, Dickinson, McGivern, Duffy, O’Connor, Kennedy (Kelly 86’), Dodds, Foley, Smith (Hooper 67’), Grant.
Subs: Streete, Hooper, Yates, Brown, Kelly, Boot, Robinson.
Attendance 3,957 (286 Southend)