REPORT | Southend 3-0 AFC Wimbledon
Blues are now unbeaten in 11 Sky Bet League One games after overcoming AFC Wimbledon with a comfortable 3-0 win at Roots Hall on Boxing Day.
A double from Simon Cox and another from Will Atkinson sealed an enjoyable afternoon for the majority of the 8,493 in attendance.
In truth, it was a pretty dominant display from a Blues side flowing with confidence, and that was clear to see on a sun-soaked, but deceivingly cold, afternoon in SS2.
Blues were forced into two changes from the side that beat Oldham last time out, with Nile Ranger and Mark Oxley missing out due to injury. In their place came Ted Smith and Marc-Antoine Fortune into the starting eleven.
AFC Wimbledon were first to go close when Anton Ferdinand's backwards header was short of the deputising goalkeeper and Dominic Poleon, the former Blues youth man, forced Smith into a sharp save from 12 yards out.
Blues responded strongly when a cross from the left was inches away from Simon Cox at the back post.
But he was johnny on the spot when moments later to fire Blues into the lead.
Ryan Leonard's long throw somehow evaded everyone and that allowed for Blues' number ten to latch onto the loose ball with a powerful swing of his right foot, leaving James Shea helpless in the Dons' goal and giving Blues the early advantage.
Blues were well on top from that moment on and were within a whisker of going 2-0 in front when Fortune's shot deflected into the path of Cox who struck the bar from close range.
Jason Demetriou was next to have a go from an unusual attacking position after some lackluster Wimbledon defending, but his left-footed effort was straight at Shea, and then Leonard volleyed over.
Ten minutes of relentless Blues pressure eased and Dons began to pose more of a threat. Leonard was well-placed to head to clear from Fuller's enticing cross as Blues were almost undone.
What the visitors failed to achieve was not so much of a problem for Blues as up the other end they doubled the lead to go into the break with a a bit more breathing space.
Fortune's good work and pass into Atkinson was finished off by the recipient of the DeVines November Player of the Month with a tidy finish into the far corner.
HALF TIME : Southend 2-0 AFC Wimbledon
Neal Ardley, clearly not impressed by his side's first half, made a double change at the start of the second half with Francomb and Poleon replaced by Andy Barcham and former Blues striker Tyronne Barnett.
Whatever was said by the manager made a difference as well, because Tom Elliott was so close to reducing the arrears with a header that Smith reacted excellently to, to divert round the post. Barnett then had a mistimed header which looped wide.
The Dons continued to apply the pressure but this time it was Lyle Taylor who cannoned a volley well over.
Blues' first chance of the second half came on the hour mark when space opened up on the edge of the box for Cox who went for the cute pass for the overlapping Fortune, but the shot may have been the better option as Shea was onto the ball before Fortune.
Taylor should have done better from 18 yards as he dragged a shot just wide and it was to be his last notable moment in the game as the striker was given his marching orders in the 70th minute for a second yellow card for a late challenge on Anton Ferdinand.
Things went from bad to worse for Dons as manager Neal Ardley was then removed from the dugout by referee Lee Collins for seemingly speaking out of turn.
And that all but spelled the end of the game as a contest with enough time for Cox to add a spectacular third.
The striker spotted Shea off of his line and delicately chipped the Dons keeper from just outside the area. A fine finish which was worthy of Cox's all-round performance, and a thoroughly deserved win for the Blues which, momentarily at least, moved them into fifth place.
BLUES XI | Smith, Demetriou, Thompson, Ferdinand, Timlin, Atkinson, Leonard, Wordsworth, McLaughlin, Cox, Fortune.
SUBS | White, O'Neill, Sokolik, King, McGlashan, Bridge, Bexon.
AFC WIMBLEDON XI | Shea, Fuller, Bulman, Robinson, Francomb, Reeves, Elliott, Poleon, Kelly, Taylor, Robertson.
SUBS | McDonnell, Meades, Beere, Barcham, Parrott, Barnett, Charles.