Blues pulled off a shock result on the opening day of the League One season as goals from Ryan Leonard and Michael Kightly saw them beat title favourites Blackburn Rovers 2-1 at Roots Hall.
Having come down from the Championship the season before, Rovers were the bookie's favourites for an immediate return to the second tier but they fell behind midway through the first half.
And it was a deserved lead for the Blues who went in front after Ryan Leonard was found unmarked at the far post, volleying into the bottom corner to give Southend the lead.
Southend doubled their advantage before the break when former Burnley-man Michael Kightly latched onto a loose ball after David Raya had saved from Marc-Antoine Fortune.
Tony Mowbray’s side immediately put the pressure on in the second half and grabbed a goal back early on when Charlie Mulgrew’s free-kick went in off the left-hand post.
Despite Blackburn having the bit between their teeth, Southend weathered the storm and could have wrapped up the game with Michael Timlin, Fortune and Theo Robinson missing golden chances.
Five minutes of added time were shown to the bemusement of the Southend fans at Roots Hall, with Phil Brown’s side holding out for a brilliant opening day win.
Brown bemoaned his side’s start to last season so wanted a positive start to this campaign, with the Blues gaffer giving Stephen Hendrie and Michael Kightly their second debuts for the club.
Blackburn gave debuts to Richie Smallwood, Dominic Samuel, Peter Whittingham and Bradley Dack and they were almost gifted a goal early on by the Blues.
Stephen Hendrie’s miscued header back to Mark Oxley beat the Blues ‘keeper forcing Hendrie to chase his own header down to clear it away from danger.
Up the other end of the pitch, last season’s top scorer Simon Cox had a great chance to open his account for the season when he was found unmarked in the six-yard box but could only head wide.
Oxley was then called upon when some poor defending from Southend allowed Elliott Bennett acres of room outside the area, with his half-volley having to be parried away by the Blues number one.
Southend had a superb chance to open the scoring midway through the half when Jermaine McGlashan was picked out at the far post only for his half-volley to be tipped over by David Raya.
It was a glorious chance for the winger who will feel he should have gotten a better connection on the strike, but it mattered little as from the resulting corner Southend took the lead.
Michael Timlin’s left-footed corner towards the far-post found the run of Ryan Leonard who had been left completely alone, volleying the ball into the bottom corner to break the deadlock.
The lead was a deserved one for Phil Brown’s side and Rovers immediately went in search of an equaliser and came close when Dominic Samuel scuffed wide from close range.
From the resulting corner, Tony Mowbray’s side had an even better chance when Oxley failed to claim a cross, leaving Charlie Mulgrew to pick out Bradley Dack who somehow headed over.
Rovers were to rue those missed opportunities as Southend shocked the early season favourites by doubling their lead before the interval through former Burnley man Michael Kightly.
Having been booed by Rovers fans with every touch due to his Burnley association, Kightly latched onto the loose ball after Raya had saved from Marc-Antoine Fortune to put Blues 2-0 up.
After a dismal first half from the visitors, Blackburn immediately applied the pressure on Southend after the break and within 10-minutes had a goal back through Charlie Mulgrew.
Timlin scythed down Richie Smallwood about 25-yards from goal, allowing the Mulgrew to curl his free-kick beyond the despairing dive of Oxley and in off the left-hand post.
The goal had sparked the Blackburn players and their fans into life as they went in search of an equaliser with Southend being forced to weather the storm.
Southend knew they would have to take their own chances when they presented them to stem the Rovers tide and Timlin had a great chance to restore Blues’ two-goal lead but scooped his shot over.
Blues had an even better chance minutes later when Cox’s cross was headed back across goal by McGlashan, finding Fortune whose header was clawed away by Raya from close range.
With time running out and with Rovers having used all of their substitutions, Darragh Lenihan was forced to go up front for Blackburn as he struggled on with an injury.
In the final few moments of five minutes added on Southend had a glorious chance to wrap the game up when sub Theo Robinson was found in the area but he couldn’t score Southend’s third.
It wasn’t to matter in the end as the final whistle blew to rapturous cheers from the home crowd as Southend opened their League One campaign with an impressive win.
Blues XI: Oxley, Hendrie, Ferdinand (C), Kightly, Timlin, Fortune, Cox (Robinson 76’), McGlashan (McLaughlin 89’), Leonard, Demetriou, White. Subs Not Used: Smith, Kiernan, Yearwood, Bridge, Kyprianou
Blackburn XI: Raya, Nyambe, Williams, Smallwood (Evans 69’), Samuel, Graham, Whittingham, Mulgrew (C), Dack (Feeney 60’), Lenihan, Bennett (Clapham 74’). Subs Not Used: Leutwiler, Ward, Caddis, Tomlinson
Referee: Lee Swabey
Assistants: Lee Venamore & Michael George
Fourth Official: Alan Young
Southend United: Ryan Leonard 27’, Michael Kightly 38’
Blackburn Rovers: Charlie Mulgrew 53’
Blackburn Rovers: Darragh Lenihan 55’, Ryan Nyambe 70’, Ryan Williams 72’