Leonard stunner as Blues return to winning ways in League Two.
An incredible dipping strike from Ryan Leonard stole the headlines as Southend chalked up a convincing 3-1 win over Dagenham and Redbridge at Victoria Road.
Phil Brown made just one change from the side that drew 2-2 with Wycombe Wanderers at Roots Hall last weekend, with Dan Bentley returning to start in goal.
Southend, backed by 1,445 travelling fans, started the first half as the better side - but Luke Prosser had to be on his toes when Jamie Cureton snuck in behind the Blues defence. Prosser stood firm to block the veteran striker’s effort, as Dagenham enjoyed a rare foray forward.
David Worrall had started strongly, terrorising the left-side of the Dagenham side, and he threatened to break the deadlock when he darted in from the right-flank, before fizzing a low effort at goal. On this occasion, Blues were denied by a defensive block, but the deadlock was soon to be broken.
Joe Pigott got himself back on the scoresheet when he combined with Ben Coker on the edge of the box, before beating his man in the penalty area and firing a left-footed effort into the far side of Liam O’Brien’s goal.
Michael Timlin became the first name in referee Fred Graham’s book in the 21st minute, when he was penalised for a foul on Shamir Fenelon.
From the resulting free-kick, the Daggers succeeded in levelling the scores. A deep ball from Billy Bingham found Charlton Athletic loanee Ayo Obileye at the back post, with the central defender thumping a headed effort past Dan Bentley.
It looked as if Blues had legitimate claims for a penalty when Pigott was held back by Daggers keeper O’Brien in the 27th minute - but referee Graham denied the protests of Phil Brown’s side.
Blues looked to immediately restore their one-goal lead, with Kevan Hurst whipping a ball onto the head of the unmarked Worrall. The winger’s header from 10 yards out was comfortably saved by O’Brien, as he continued to threaten the Dagenham defence.
Worrall and Hurst combined just moments later, combining before the former curled a ball onto the head of Barry Corr - who headed straight at O’Brien.
Two minutes later and Corr was once again proving too much to handle for the hosts.
A free-kick from Coker in the left-channel found the head of Corr, but his effort flashed wide of the far post of the Dagenham goal.
A coming together between Dagenham goalscorer Obileye and Adam Thompson sparked a brief melee, but no further action was deemed necessary by the referee.
Obileye would have been thanking his lucky stars with four minutes of the first half remaining, when he dallied on the ball and lost possession to Pigott on the edge of the box. Fortunately for the Daggers defender, O’Brien was alert and managed to thwart Pigott’s attempt.
When the fourth official indicated two minutes of added time at the end of the first half, the majority of the stadium will have been expecting the score to remain 2-1 to the Blues. Ryan Leonard had other ideas, however.
The Blues midfielder took the ball down on his chest 30 yards from goal, before smashing a dipping effort over the helpless O’Brien and into the back of the Daggers net with just seconds of the first half remaining.
The goal prompted Southend boss Phil Brown to leap into the air, and it ensured that Blues went in at the interval with a deserved lead over the hosts.
Southend came out at the start of the second half looking to capitalise on a Dagenham side that made an unconvincing start to the second half.
They were given an opportunity to extend their lead in the 51st minute, when Damian Batt handled a header from Southend defender Prosser.
The referee pointed to the spot, allowing Corr to step up and score his sixth goal in six games.
Phil Brown’s side smelled blood, and went in pursuit of a 4th goal - with a spell of pressure that saw the hosts struggling to get out of their own half.
Daggers made their first change of the afternoon in the 55th minute, with on-loan Watford forward Alex Jakubiak replacing Fenelon.
Back-to-back corners came to nothing, despite some shaky defending from the Dagenham defence.
Dagenham boss Wayne Burnett then made his second change of the afternoon, bringing on Abu Ogogo for Damian Batt as the hosts switched to a 3-5-2 formation.
Ryan Leonard tried his luck with a volley in the 70th minute, but saw his attempt drop wide of the Dagenham goal.
Three minutes later Corr had a chance to score his second of the afternoon, when a cross from Pigott nearly picked out the Irishman - but Dagenham’s Scott Doe did just enough to deny Blues.
Doe presented Southend with a chance to score again when his cushioned header fell straight to Hurst, but the Blues midfielder’s curling attempt only found the hands of O’Brien.
Corr then knocked the ball down for strike partner Pigott, but the on-loan Charlton Athletic forward’s dinked attempt was unsuccessful.
Phil Brown made his first change of the afternoon with just ten minutes remaining, withdrawing Hurst in favour of Myles Weston.
Two minutes later Southend made another change, this time introducing Gary Deegan in place of Timlin.
Corr took aim again soon after, dropping a shoulder and charging in from the left before curling an effort at goal, but O’Brien was equal to Corr’s attempt.
Jody Jones, who signed his first professional contract with the Daggers before kick-off came on for a cameo appearance with five minutes remaining, as Luke Howell made way for the youngster.
Pigott, who scored the opening goal of the afternoon, then made way for Jake Cassidy and departed to a standing ovation from the travelling support.
Dagenham stopper O’Brien was called upon once again to deny Corr, after Worrall wriggled free in the corner before playing a dangerous ball across the face of goal. Corr pounced, but O’Brien reacted quickly to save the low attempt at his near post.
Jones almost scored a remarkable goal for Dagenham in the first of four minutes of injury time, but his superb curling effort was tipped round the post by Blues keeper Bentley.
Dagenham captain Doe then went into the book for a mistimed challenge.
Blues substitute Weston had an opportunity to get on the scoresheet, but after racing away from two Dagenham defenders, he was defeated by a bobble and lost possession.
Blues ran out 3-1 winners at Victoria Road, with the result propelling Southend to within three points of the automatic promotion spots with 10 games of the League Two season remaining.
BLUES: Bentley; White, Thompson, Prosser, Coker; Worrall, Leonard, Timlin (Deegan - 82’), Hurst (Weston - 80’); Pigott (Cassidy - 88’), Corr.
Unused Subs: T. Smith, Binnom-Williams, Atkinson, Payne.