Southend United ended their 2017 in defeat as Ryan Leonard’s second-half header wasn’t enough to stop Blues being beaten 2-1 by Shrewsbury Town at Roots Hall.
The visitors, who were looking to close the gap on Wigan Athletic at the top of the table, went ahead when Ben Coker was unfortunate enough to head Alex Rodman’s cross into his own net.
And Paul Hurst’s side would go into the break 2-0 up when Ben Godfrey scored his first goal for the Shrews with a superb half-volley that flew into the top corner.
Blues would get themselves back into the game early in the second half when Ryan Leonard would head in from a Stephen McLaughlin corner but the home side couldn’t find a second.
The closest Southend came was late on when Simon Cox’s first-time strike was parried into the path of Nile Ranger but the Blues number 50 couldn’t convert the rebound on the stretch.
Shrewsbury’s win sees them close the gap on table-topping Wigan to just two points as Southend dropped into the bottom half of the table ahead of Monday’s trip to AFC Wimbledon.
It was a disappointing way to end the year for Blues who had been lifted by a brilliant 3-1 win at home against Charlton Athletic on Boxing Day.
Off the back of that win, Blues boss Phil Brown would name an unchanged line-up as they welcomed second-placed Shrewsbury Town to Roots Hall.
The visitors came to Essex buoyed by table-topping Wigan Athletic dropping points the night before against Charlton knowing they could go within two points of the Latics with a win.
Neither side really got going in the opening exchanges and Southend were dealt a blow when their skipper Anton Ferdinand was forced off through injury inside quarter of an hour.
John White was his replacement and within a few minutes of his introduction, Southend were picking the ball out of the net as Shrewsbury took the lead in fortuitous circumstances.
Alex Rodman capitalised on a loose ball to break down the left wing, clipping a cross into the area for Carlton Morris only for it to miss the number nine and go in off the unfortunate head of Ben Coker.
There was little Coker could do about the header that beat the despairing dive of Mark Oxley, but Southend responded with a couple of half chances through Nile Ranger and Stephen McLaughlin.
Simon Cox would carve out Blues best chance when he muscled Mat Sadler off the ball allowing him to send a low cross into the area which was cleared by James Bolton from underneath his crossbar.
That was as good as it would get for Blues in the first-half whose task of getting anything from the game would be made twice as hard as Shrewsbury doubled their lead before the interval.
Shaun Whalley would go close for Shrews when he barrelled his way into the penalty area before seeing his strike blocked away for a corner over on the far side.
Whalley would go across the take the set-piece with it initially being cleared, but only as far as Ben Godfrey who sent a superbly struck half-volley into the top corner to double the visitor’s lead.
Southend had been outclassed in the first half by Shrewsbury, but shortly after the interval, they would get themselves back in the game, halving the deficit through a Ryan Leonard header.
McLaughlin would win Blues a corner on the near-side before whipping the ball into the area, finding the run of Leonard whose header flew past Dean Henderson at his near post.
Southend now had their tails up and Coker almost made up for his earlier own-goal by scoring off a miss-hit cross which flew just inches past Henderson’s up-right.
With Southend pressing forward for an equaliser it meant Blues could be hit on the break and after Shrews swept the ball from the right to left, Rodman had a shot that was deflected just wide.
Blues continued to throw the kitchen sink at Shrewsbury and with 15 minutes of the game remaining they had a golden opportunity to snatch a point.
Cox was set free down the left with his first time shot being parried by Henderson into the path of Ranger who, on the stretch, couldn’t scramble home as Henderson recovered to make the save.
That looked to be Blues’ best chance of salvaging a point as Leonard went close to his second with a half-volley which flew just over Henderson’s cross-bar.
Brown threw the dice one final time by bringing on Theo Robinson for the fatiguing Cox but his introduction made little difference as the Shropshire side held Blues off for the win.
Blues XI: Oxley, Coker, Wordsworth, Ferdinand (C)(White 12’), Turner, Cox (Robinson 83’), McLaughlin, Leonard, Demetriou, Wright (McGlashan 53’), Ranger. Subs Not Used: Bishop, Fortune, Yearwood, Kyprianou
Shrewsbury Town XI: Henderson, Godfrey, Sadler, Beckles, Whalley (Riley 89’), Ogogo (C), C Morris (Lenell John-Lewis 76’), Bolton, Nolan (B Morris 77’), Nsiala, Rodman. Subs Not Used: MacGillivray, Dodds, Gnahoua, Adams
Referee: Gavin Ward
Assistants: Paul Yates & Christopher Wade
Fourth Official: Andrew Aylott
Southend United: Ryan Leonard 55’
Shrewsbury Town: Ben Coker O.G. 18’, Ben Godfrey 40’
Southend United: Josh Wright 34’, Michael Turner 64’
Shrewsbury Town: Shaun Whalley 62’, Alex Rodman 90’