Ricky Duncan’s first game in caretaker charge of Southend United ended with a 2-0 defeat at home to Shrewsbury Town with goals from Fejiri Okenabirhie and Luke Waterfall the difference.
Following the departure of Chris Powell in the week, Blues began brightly at Roots Hall but they were missing a decisive ball in the final third to unlock the visiting Shrews.
The two sides couldn’t be separated at the interval but Shrewsbury were able to break through when Okenabirhie got on the end of a one-two with Shaun Whalley to fire in his 15th goal of the season.
The Salop top-scorer almost grabbed a second moments later when he hit the foot the post from inside the six-yard box before Waterfall nodded in James Bolton’s cross to double their advantage.
Southend had no answer for their visitors with the crowd ironically cheering Simon Cox’s strike late in the game – Blues’ first shot on target – as an elusive victory once again evaded Southend.
Results elsewhere meant Blues remained outside the relegation zone on goal difference, however, four teams were now sitting on 42 points with just Bradford cut adrift at the bottom of the table.
After 11-games without a win, the now former boss Chris Powell was given the axe by chairman Ron Martin in the week, leading into today’s crunch game against Shrewsbury who were another side battling towards the foot of the table.
Following the departure of Powell, academy boss Ricky Duncan was put in charge for his third spell in caretaker charge but this afternoon’s game would be his first match at the helm after both his previous caretaker spells ended with games being called off.
Duncan’s first call of duty was the ring the changes as Blues made five alterations after last weekend’s defeat at Peterborough, with Nathan Bishop, Jason Demetriou, John White and Harry Bunn coming in alongside teenage striker Emile Acquah who was making his first professional start.
Early on, the changes appeared to be working as Blues made a bright start with the Roots Hall crowd getting right behind their troubled side. But despite Southend’s positive opening their final ball was lacking leading to goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell being untested in the first-half.
Shrewsbury went into the game just a point and a place above Blues and needed the points just as much as Southend did and they had a couple of decent chances go begging when Scott Golbourne put a header wide from close range before Fejiri Okenabirhie hit the side netting moments later.
Blues continued to put together some fluid passages of play and Dru Yearwood found himself through after Michael Kightly’s through ball. The young midfielder cut back onto his left foot to try and get the shot away only for a Shrewsbury defender to come across and clear the danger.
Bishop had to be at his best to tip to Okenabirhie’s effort onto the post midway through the half – although the linesman’s flag would have ruled it out – before Luke Waterfall headed over a Shaun Whalley free-kick to end the half strongly for the visitors.
Much like the AFC Wimbledon game a fortnight before, there was little to separate the two sides at the break, but unfortunately for Blues they fell behind early in the second-half as the Salop opened the scoring with Okenabirhie firing in with the game’s first shot on target.
Shrewsbury's top scorer got in front of his marker to play a neat one-two with Whalley and find himself on the edge of the Blues box before firing across the face of Bishop's goal and in off the inside of the post to put the visitors a goal to the good.
Okenabirhie’s strike put Blues on course for an unwanted club record of 12 home defeats in a single season and the striker almost sealed Southend’s fate by hitting the foot of the post after getting on the end of a low cross from James Bolton.
Southend just about survived that effort but shortly after they were two goals down as Shrewsbury’s Luke Waterfall grabbed the visitor’s second. A corner from the right came back out to Bolton whose left-footed cross into the area was nodded past Bishop by Waterfall to put the Salop in control.
Blues had little time to turn things around and, having not recorded a shot on target against Peterborough last weekend, Simon Cox’s snap-shot on goal brought ironic cheers from the Roots Hall fans as Southend recorded their first shot on target of the game.
The home side continued to push for an unlikely comeback and Charlie Kelman had a good chance go begging when he cut inside before shooting wide on the half volley. Moments later Timothee Dieng’s header was claimed by goalkeeper Mitchell as Blues failed to score for a third straight game.
Defeat for Blues left them still clinging on towards the foot of the League One table, outside the drop-zone on goal-difference, while three points for Shrewsbury lifted them 15th, four points clear of the bottom four.
Blues XI: Bishop, Kightly, Dieng, Cox, Kiernan (C), Yearwood (Hyam 66’), Demetriou, Bunn (Kelman 66’), Acquah, Hart, White. Subs Not Used: Oxley, Bwomono, Turner, Mantom, Hutchinson
Shrewsbury Town XI: Mitchell, Williams, Beckles, Whalley (Edwards 79’), Docherty, Okenabirhie (Amadi-Holloway 73’), Bolton, Waterfall, Golbourne, Norburn (Laurent 46’), Grant. Subs Not Used: Charles-Cook, Sadler, Campbell, Payne
Referee: Michael Salisbury
Assistants: Paul Yates & Andrew Aylott
Fourth Official: Isaac Searle
Southend United: None
Shrewsbury Town: Fejiri Okenabirhie 50’, Luke Waterfall 69’
Southend United: Luke Hyam 78’
Shrewsbury Town: Ro-Shaun Williams 53’, Shaun Whalley 78’
Attendance: 6,818 (312 Away)