David Worrall's strike proves the difference as Blues earn a valuable three points
An impressive run and finish from David Worrall ensured that Blues returned to winning ways, with a well-earned 1-0 win over Hartlepool United at Roots Hall.
Jack Payne returned to the starting lineup for Blues, with Phil Brown having to make a defensive re-shuffle due to suspensions to Jakub Sokolik and Jerome Williams. This meant Adam Thompson went to right back, John White at left back, leaving Cian Bolger and Luke Prosser as the two centre halves for Blues.
Charlie Wyke fired a volley wide of goal within the opening 15 seconds of the game, in a half that was to contain little by way of clear-cut chances.
Energetic youngster Payne returned to the starting line-up in place of Gary Deegan, who started for Blues in the FA Cup last weekend.
It was Payne who launched a dangerous-looking counter-attack in the 4th minute, with a defence-splitting ball to pick out Worrall on the left-flank, but saw Scott Flinders gather with relative ease after cutting inside onto his right foot.
Blues fans were calling for a foul on the edge of penalty area when David Worrall went to ground after what appeared to be a push, but no action was taken, with the resulting curling effort from Barry Corr well saved by Flinders in the Pools goal.
Corr was to be at the centre of the action again for Blues shortly after, switching the play to Worrall on the left. White provided a ball in on the overlap, but Hurst’s headed attempt was at a perfect height for Flinders.
Headed half-chances were the story of the first half for Blues, with Prosser heading over before Worrall headed down into the ground and up into the grateful arms of Flinders.
Hartlepool were looking dangerous on the counter, with both Franks and Schmeltz teasing Blues with tricky wide-play, although Bentley was given little work to-do.
With the visitors beginning to build up some headway, Ryan Leonard was on hand to clear from a dangerous looking cut-back in the penalty area, befoer picking out Worrall once again just moments later.
Worrall progressed down the flank, eventually rolling the ball back for Barry Corr to fire a curling attempt at goal. Once again, Flinders was equal to the effort.
Hartlepool were beginning to double up on Adam Thompson at right-back, with first Featherstone and then Franks unleashing attempts on Daniel Bentley’s goal.
Featherstone got past Thompson before jinking inside the box, eventually cutting back on to his right foot, before seeing his near post attempt stopped by the hand of Bentley at his near post.
Franks found space, running at goal before watching his effort from just outside of the edge of the area fly just wide of the Southend goal.
Luke Prosser was next to test Scott Flinders, but the pace was taken out of his bouncing volley, allowing Flinders to save once again.
David Worrall, whose runs in wide areas had been threatening the visitors for most of the first half, went down with a blood injury after challenging for a header, but was able to play on after some bandaging from Blues physio Ben Clarkson.
The best chance of the first half for Blues came in added time, when Hurst’s free-kick was flicked toward the back post by a Hartlepool head, with Thompson unfortunate to fire over from close range.
Neil Austin made it one apiece in the referee’s book moments prior to the half-time whistle after a mistimed challenge, but the resulting free-kick came to nothing.
Southend started the second half in much the same way they had ended the first, using the width of the Roots Hall pitch to create chances for Barry Corr in the air.
A low ball across goal from Hurst was nearly turned into the Hartlepool net for an own goal by Sam Collins, but he was fortunate to see the legs of Flinders outstretched and able to prevent the ball diverting into the net.
Michael Timlin was next to try his luck, with a rasping drive from range well-saved by Flinders, who parried before seeing the ball eventually cleared for a throw-in.
Visiting manager Paul Murray was first to show his hand, replacing Schmeltz and Crooks with Richards and Fenwick in the 55th minute.
A ball forward from Bolger on the hour mark found the head of Corr, but his effort lacked the required power to ask any real questions of Flinders in the Pools goal.
Ryan Leonard was driving at the Hartlepool back line just minutes later, before his poked attempt aimed at the far post was well-saved.
Blues broke the deadlock on 64 minutes, when a surging run from David Worrall on the counter was picked out by Barry Corr. Worrall continued to advance on goal, before finding the back of the net with a confident low finish to beat the impressive Scott Flinders.
Hartlepool looked to make an immediate impact after the goal, with Charlie Wyke unleashing a fierce dive from range, requiring Bentley to be at full-stretch to turn the ball round the post.
Wyke was at the heart of yet another Hartlepool attack in the 70th minute, picking up the ball and rolling it to Walker, who found himself with a yard of space - but he could only fire wide.
The visitors were continuing to apply pressure to Blues, with Wyke knocking the ball back for Franks, but his volley was tame and off-target.
Blues could’ve doubled their advantage in the 73rd minute, but as Worrall clipped the ball back to Corr in the penalty area, but Sam Collins was on hand with a last-ditch block.
Worrall was at the heart of most of Blues’ attacking moves all afternoon, and he went close to bagging a second when a low drive went just wide of the far post.
Pools boss Paul Murray made his final change of the game in the 79th minute, introducing veteran striker Marlon Harewood in place of Charlie Wyke, as the vsitors pressed for an equaliser.
Blues went close once again, with Leonard’s cross eventually falling to Luke Prosser at the back post, but despite putting a dangerous ball across the face of goal, nobody was able to provide the crucial touch.
Hartlepool were to give Blues a late scare, with Prosser and Bolger called into action by the visiting attack as the game headed into its final stages.
The Blues defence stood firm, earning Phil Brown’s side a deserved 1-0 win.
Blues: Bentley; Thompson, Bolger, Prosser, White (c); Hurst, Leonard, Timlin, Worrall; Payne; Corr
Subs not used: P. Smith, Atkinson, Clifford, Coulthirst, Layne, Matsuzaka, Deegan