Bristol Rovers 2 Southend 3
Southend United claimed their first league victory in a decade at Bristol Rovers, securing an exciting 3-2 win at the Memorial Stadium.
Blues went behind early on with Fabian Broghammer putting the Pirates in front, but goals from Gavin Tomlin, Kevan Hurst and Ryan Cresswell secured a rare success for Blues in the West Country.
United started brightly and with two minutes on the clock Michael Timlin struck the outside of the left post from 10 yards after a mis-hit shot from Tomlin had rolled into his path.
Moments later, Tomlin fired a weak effort straight at Pirates goalkeeper Neil Etheridge from close range when a chipped effort would have brought greater reward.
Rovers immediately made the most of the let off by taking the lead in the 10th minute following a mistake by Southend goalkeeper Paul Smith.
The Blues shot-stopper failed to hold a tame effort from Broghammer and that enabled the striker to fire the resulting rebound into the top right hand corner of the net from six yards.
Southend immediately replied with Hurst firing inches over the crossbar from long range before Cresswell had a header from Timilin’s left wing cross tipped wide of the right post by Etheridge.
With Blues remaining on top, Britt Assombalonga then headed straight at the Rovers goalkeeper from 12 yards after good work from Chris Barker down the left.
But Rovers then came close to doubling their lead when Tom Eaves saw his 25-yard shot impressively pushed around the left post by Smith.
Blues then came close to equalising when Tomlin’s six yard volley from another Barker cross was parried to safety by Etheridge.
However, Tomlin was not to be denied for long as in the 40th minute he bagged his first league goal for Blues since signing from Dagenham and Redbridge in the summer.
The forward raced on to a brilliant through ball from Marc Laird before firing a low left foot shot between Etheridge’s legs from six yards.
Things were soon to get even better for Southend as they took the lead just four minutes later when Hurst latched on to the ball just inside the penalty area and sent a deflected left foot shot flying into the top left hand corner of the net.
In comparison to the end of the first half, the second period started slowly until Rovers almost levelled in the 59th minute when Tom Parkes’ header from Lee Brown’s right wing corner was cleared off the line by Timlin.
Blues immediately made the most of the let off by making it 3-1 just five minutes later when Cresswell rose high to head Hurst’s left wing corner into the back of the net from six yards.
Moments later Assombalonga had a 20-yard effort blocked by Etheridge after beating three Rovers defenders on his way towards goal.
In a bid to make his side defensively stronger, Blues boss Paul Sturrock made his first substitution of the night in the 73rd minute as Ryan Leonard came on for Tomlin as Blues reverted to a 4-5-1 formation.
However, moments after the change, the home side wasted a golden opportunity to get back into the game as David Clarkson fired wide of the right post from 12 yards when he should have done better.
But in the 84th minute Clarkson made no mistake as he brought Rovers back into the game from the penalty spot.
Referee Darren Drysdale awarded the spot kick after Sean Clohessy had brought down sub Eliot Richards inside the area and Clarkson made no mistake as he drilled his 12-yard shot into the centre of the goal with Smith diving to his right hand side.
Rovers’ hopes of securing a dramatic late point were hit in the 87th minute when sub Oliver Norburn was sent off for a late two-footed challenge on Leonard.
However, despite the midfielder’s dismissal, Rovers still came close to snatching appoint deep into stoppage time when Brown’s 20-yard shot flew inches wide of the right post to leave Blues celebrating a hard-fought but well deserved win.