REPORT | Bristol Rovers 2-0 Southend
Southend’s play-off push suffered another blow as they fell to a 2-0 defeat against Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Ground.
A goal in the opening minute from Billy Bodin, who found the bottom corner with a strike from outside the area, made for a nightmare start for the Blues.
Having been the dominant side in the first half, Rovers doubled their lead through Rory Gaffney who also found the net from outside the area, kissing the post on the way through.
Lee Brown forced a fingertip save out of Ted Smith in the first minute of the second half and Luke James struck the post as Rovers looked to finish off the Blues.
Southend had 13 corners but failed to make any of them count, with their best chance coming from a Simon Cox free kick that was tipped around the post by Joe Lumley.
The defeat for Southend sees Bristol Rovers rise to eighth, now level on points with the Blues, whilst Phil Brown’s side remain seventh and four points behind Millwall who have a game in hand.
The Blues were left frustrated last weekend after dropping two points at home to lowly Port Vale, but they remained unchanged at the Memorial Ground.
Rovers, who were on an eight game unbeaten run and were coming into the game off the back of a 2-0 win away at Oxford United, made four changes and they made the perfect start as they took the lead inside the first minute.
After a foul by Anton Ferdinand, Bristol played a short free-kick with the ball falling at the feet of Billy Bodin outside the area who rifled into the bottom corner to open the scoring.
Rovers were just three points and two places behind Southend going into the game and they still harboured hopes of making the play-off places after an unbeaten run of eight games.
And having scored early, Bristol had a couple of great chances to extend their lead with both Chris Lines and Cristian Montano missing the target from good positions.
After weathering Bristol’s early storm, Southend managed to create a couple of chances to level with Marc-Antoine Fortune having the best opportunity, getting past him man only to shoot straight at Joe Lumley.
Bristol though continued to push for a second and almost caught Southend out on the break as Rory Gaffney found himself in a two-on-one situation against Ferdinand. Despite having Bodin up with him and in acres of space, Gaffney chose to go it alone only for Ferdinand to block his effort.
The Rovers number 30 though made up for his selfishness moments earlier by firing in the home side’s second as he shot from outside the area, clipping the inside of the post and hitting the back of the net to double Bristol’s lead.
Southend hadn’t been at the races and Phil Brown made a double substitution before the first half was over, with Fortune being replaced by Nile Ranger and Will Atkinson brought off for the returning Stephen McLaughlin.
The changes didn’t make too much of a difference, despite Southend finishing the half with a flurry of corners, it was Bristol who looked most likely to score next as Ted Smith was needed to save from Montano and then Gaffney in first half injury time.
After conceding within a minute in the first half, Southend were fingertips away from going three down in the first minute of the second half with Smith forced to save brilliantly from Lee Brown, tipping over his curling effort.
If the Blues had any hope of getting anything from the West Country they needed to get the game’s next goal, and after Adam Thompson had headed over from a corner, Ranger had an even better headed chance go over after being found unmarked at the far post.
Luke James had a chance to really put the game beyond doubt after a defensive mix-up by Southend left the ball at the feet of the midfielder whose effort was deflected onto the face of the post.
As long as Bristol’s lead was kept to two Southend were still in the game and they had a couple of good opportunities from free kicks in identical positions go begging, with Anthony Wordsworth striking the wall minutes after Simon Cox had forced a good save from Lumley low to his left.
Theo Robinson was brought on as Southend’s final change and he had an effort on goal from inside the area easily saved by Lumley. But the damage had been done in the first half as Southend suffered their second defeat in their last three matches.
Bristol Rovers XI | Lumley, Leadbitter (Clarke 77’), Brown, Lockyer (C), Mansell, Lines, Montano (Moore 65’), Bodin, James, Gaffney (Clarke-Salter 89’), Sweeney. Subs Not Used: Mildenhall, Harris, Broom, Burn, Clarke-Salter
Blues XI | Smith, Coker, Wordsworth, Thompson, Timlin (Robinson 67’), Cox, Atkinson (McLaughlin 37’), Fortune (Ranger 37’), Leonard, Demetriou, Ferdinand (C). Subs Not Used: Bishop, White, Amos, McGlashan
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Assistants: Marvyn Amphlett & Steven Plane
Fourth Official: Justin Amey
Bristol Rovers: Billy Bodin 1’, Rory Gaffney 31’
Southend United: None
Bristol Rovers: Lee Mansell 58’
Southend United: Will Atkinson 22’, Simon Cox 73’, Ryan Leonard 90+1’