Southend United left the Memorial Stadium empty handed as Bristol Rovers beat Blues 3-0 thanks to goals from Billy Bodin, Ellis Harrison and Liam Sercombe.
It was a third time in succession that Southend had failed to score at the Memorial Stadium and it was a familiar face in Bodin that opened the scoring after 15 minutes, smashing in from close range.
Bodin had scored after a minute last time these two sides met and it looked like Rovers may match the 2-0 scoreline from March when Ellis Harrison scored midway through the second half.
Liam Sercombe though put an end to that score-line happening again when he wrapped up the three points for Rovers with their third, scoring from Rory Gaffney’s rebound.
Southend failed to have a single shot on target the entire game, compared to Rovers’ 11 from 23 attempts, the sum up a truly awful afternoon for Phil Brown’s side.
With Southend’s next four games all against sides inside the top six, today was a key game for Blues which Brown had described as “one of the biggest games of the season.”
Brown made just the one change from the side that beat Oldham Athletic last weekend with Anthony Wordsworth coming in for the injury Michael Kightly.
When these two sides last met in March, Billy Bodin put Rovers in front after less than a minute on their way to a 2-0 win over Phil Brown’s side.
This time around, Rovers didn’t breakthrough as quickly but it was the same player who broke the deadlock, as Bodin – Rovers’ joint-top goal scorer – powered Bristol in front after 15 minutes.
A long-throw from Rory Gaffney was headed down by Michael Turner, with Bodin nicking the ball off the toes of Ryan Leonard before smashing it low and hard past Oxley for the game’s opener.
Blues responded well to going behind and arguably should have been level within five minutes when Josh Wright was found unmarked in the penalty box only to screw his shot wide.
Both sides had chances to score before the break with Oxley being forced into action with a superb reaction save from Ellis Harrison who headed Dan Leadbitter’s cross on target.
Up the other end and Leonard found some space on the right to send a low cross into the area which skipped up sharply on Jermaine McGlashan who, from close range, couldn’t get contact on the ball.
Southend went close again before the break when McGlashan whipped in a cross to the far-post which Anthony Wordsworth was unable to bundle over the line under pressure from Adam Smith.
Rovers looked the more likely to score early in the second half with Harrison testing the palms of Oxley with a low drive from outside the area which was easily held by the Blues ‘keeper.
Oxley was needed again just past the hour mark when Lee Brown’s free-kick was pushed away by the Southend number one before Bodin’s follow-up strike went narrowly wide.
Blues had failed to score in their previous two visits to the Memorial Stadium and it looked like they may miss out for a third time as Rovers kept the pressure on the visitors.
Nile Ranger was brought on to try and boost Southend’s fire-power up-front but he ended up intervening in his own area when he cleared Joe Partington’s goal-bound header off the line.
From the resulting corner, Rovers’ captain Tom Lockyer blasted a shot which flew across the face of goal, deflecting on the foot of the post before Southend frantically cleared.
Amadou Ba was brought on for Josh Wright, meaning a change of shape for Blues, but the change mattered little as seconds after Ba came on Rovers had doubled their lead.
Rovers broke away down the left before playing the ball across the edge of the area towards Harrison who beat Oxley with a low strike that went in off the inside of the post.
The goal was just rewards for Rovers who had been the better side throughout the second-half, with Southend now facing an uphill battle to salvage anything from Bristol with quarter of an hour to go.
Harrison though could have put any chance of a Blues comeback to bed when a flowing Rovers move found him in the area only for his header to be parried away by Oxley.
Rovers would end the game by scoring a third when Gaffney’s low strike was parried into the path of Liam Sercombe who beat Oxley at the second attempt to finish off a miserable afternoon for Blues.
Bristol Rovers XI: Smith, Leadbitter, Brown, Lockyer (C), Sweeney, Sercombe, Harrison (Nichols 89’), Bodin (Clarke 87’), Partington (Lines 90+1’), Sinclair, Gaffney. Subs Not Used: Slocombe, Broadbent, Telford, Bola
Blues XI: Oxley, Hendrie, Wordsworth, Ferdinand (C), Turner, Fortune (Ranger 59’), Cox, McLaughlin (McGlashan 13’), Leonard, Demetriou, Wright (Ba 73’). Subs Not Used: Bishop, Timlin, Yearwood, White
Referee: Tom Nield
Assistants: Mark Griffiths & Ronald Ganfield
Fourth Official: Marvyn Amphlett
Bristol Rovers: Billy Bodin 15’, Ellis Harrison 75’, Liam Sercombe 86’
Southend United: None
Bristol Rovers: None
Southend United: Michael Turner 44’