An 11-minute hat-trick from Ben Whiteman brought Southend’s unbeaten run to a crashing halt as they fell to a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Blues hadn’t won away to Doncaster for almost thirty years but they looked like they may end that long wait when Anthony Wordsworth headed Blues in front midway through the first-half.
But Darren Ferguson’s side would equalise in first-half stoppage time through John Marquis before Whiteman would blow Blues out of the water with his second-half hat-trick.
His first came after James Coppinger had hit the crossbar with his free-kick, scoring the rebound, before a thunderbolt of an effort from the edge of the area flew in off the underside of the bar.
He was then given the chance to secure the match-ball when Anton Ferdinand fouled Alfie May inside the area, with Whiteman sending Mark Oxley the wrong way with his penalty.
To add insult to injury, after the final whilstle was blown, referee Darren Handley showed Anton Ferdinand a straight red card for dissent to wrap up Southend's misery.
The win was Doncaster’s first win at home of the season and it ended Southend’s run of five games without defeat, dropping them back into the bottom-half of the table.
With tricky ties to come against Wigan Athletic and Peterborough United, Phil Brown would have earmarked this game as a good opportunity to extend their five-game unbeaten run, but it’ll be the manner of the defeat he’ll be most disappointed with.
Brown was forced into making one change before the game following last weekend’s league win against Blackpool with Elvis Bwomono coming in for Jason Demetriou who was away on international duty.
Blues came into the game full of confidence having won their last four and were unbeaten in their last five, whilst their opponents Doncaster had yet to win a league game at home all season.
And Doncaster’s resolve would have been sorely tested had Josh Wright taken his chance inside 30 seconds when Stephen McLaughlin picked out the former Gillingham-man at the far post only for his side-foot volley to be easily saved.
Southend had never won at the Keepmoat Stadium and hadn’t beaten Rovers away since 1989, but they looked the most threatening in the early stages and Simon Cox will know he should have done better when he was slipped in by Michael Timlin only to blaze over.
Having been in control of the early exchanges, Blues were fortunate not to go down to 10 men midway through the half when Anthony Wordsworth kicked Jordan Houghton from behind as the Rovers man tried to protect the ball on the ground.
Referee Darren Handley took an age to make a decision and consulted his linesman and fourth official before choosing only to brandish the Blues number four with a yellow card to the dismay of the home crowd.
The decision seemed to spur the Rovers fans and players on and the home side had two great chances in quick succession come and go as the scores remained level.
John Marquis was stopped by a superb last-ditch block by Ryan Leonard in the area and from the resulting corner, a goal-mouth scramble ended with Mark Oxley saving Andy Butler’s scuffed shot.
Doncaster’s tails were well and truly up and they came within a whisker of opening the scoring after the half-hour mark when Marquis’ header was fingertipped onto the crossbar by Oxley.
As the ball bounced down, Tommy Rowe somehow wasn’t able to convert with Oxley again saving the shot from close range before Anton Ferdinand bundled the ball to safety.
Having weathered the storm from the home side and arguably against the run of play, Blues would break the deadlock through Wordsworth, adding salt into the wounds of the Rovers fans who felt he should have been sent off.
After a mix-up between Ian Lawlor and his defender, Nile Ranger headed towards an unguarded net only for Niall Mason to head off the line. His header though went straight to Wordsworth who nodded the ball in to give Southend the lead.
That lead, however, was short-lived as Doncaster would grab an equaliser before half-time. After a poor ball out from the back by Wright, Marquis was picked out inside the six-yard box before eventually bundling the ball in from close range.
Equalising before the break would have drastically changed Darren Ferguson’s half-time team talk and his Rovers players came flying out of the blocks in the second half with Ben Whiteman scoring an 11-minute hat-trick to all but seal Doncaster’s first home win of the season.
His first came inside two minutes of the restart when James Coppinger’s free-kick crashed off the face of the crossbar with Whiteman on hand to score with the rebound.
Three minutes later and the Rovers number 12 would score an absolute screamer as the ball fell to him on the edge of the area before rifling a shot in off the underside of the crossbar.
Whiteman would then wrap his hat-trick up before the hour mark when Alfie May went down in the area after a challenge from Ferdinand, sending Oxley the wrong way with his spot-kick.
Blues had been blown away by the exploits of Whiteman who became the third player already this season to score a hat-trick against Southend whilst on their travels.
Brown brought on Theo Robinson to try and salvage something from the game and he had a great chance late on when he was found by Ryan Leonard’s flashed cross but the striker couldn’t convert from close range as his former side’s three-goal lead remained untroubled.
To round off another miserable afternoon for the Blues in Yorkshire, Ferdinand was shown a straight red card by referee Handley after the full-time whistle had blown to truly make it an afternoon to forget for Southend.
Doncaster Rovers XI: Lawlor, Butler, Mason, Marquis (Garratt 88’), Rowe, Whiteman, Wright, Houghton (Fletcher 90+3'), Toffolo, May, Coppinger (C)(Blair 76’). Subs Not Used: Jones, Alcock, Ben Khemis, Madeville
Blues XI: Oxley, Wordsworth, Ferdinand (C), Timlin, Cox (Robinson 65’), McLaughlin, Leonard, Kyprianou (White 25’), Bwomono, Wright (McGlashan 53’), Ranger. Subs Not Used: Bishop, Hendrie, Yearwood, McGlashan, Robinson, Fortune
Referee: Darren Handley
Assistants: Richard Bartlett & Richard Wild
Fourth Official: Sebastian Stockbridge
Doncaster Rovers: John Marquis 45+1’, Ben Whiteman 47’, 50’, (p)57’
Southend United: Anthony Wordsworth 38’
Doncaster Rovers: John Marquis 80’, Niall Mason 85’
Southend United: Anthony Wordsworth 20’, John White 49’, Mark Oxley 58’, Elvis Bwomono 80’
Doncaster Rovers: None
Southend United: Anton Ferdinand (After Full Time)