Southend produced an incredible first-half display as they beat Gillingham 4-0 at Roots Hall.
Three goals in 11 minutes for Blues set Southend on course for their first win against Gillingham in 10 attempts as Michael Turner opened the scoring with a textbook header after just eight minutes.
Theo Robinson then marked his first league start since October with a close-range volley before Michael Kightly nodded in on the rebound after Stephen McLaughlin had rattled the crossbar.
Southend grabbed a fourth before the interval as McLaughlin headed in from a Kightly corner before Gills captain Lee Martin was shown a straight red card for a late challenge on Robinson.
It was the first time Blues had scored four in the first-half of a game since 2011 against Macclesfield Town and it was more than enough to end their six-year wait for a win against their local rivals.
The victory maintained Southend’s place inside to top half of the League One table ahead of a trip to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday while Gillingham slipped to 15th.
It was such a contrast in emotions at Roots Hall compared to the disappointment felt after Blues lost by the same scoreline just four days previously against a rampant Plymouth Argyle side.
In fact, both sides came into today’s local derby off the back of defeats with Southend’s humbling at Plymouth on Good Friday following Gillingham’s 2-1 reversal at home to struggling MK Dons.
Off the back of that defeat to Argyle, Chris Powell made three changes to his Blues side with Michael Timlin, Michael Kightly and Theo Robinson coming in and within 18 minutes of the kick-off, two of those three were on the scoresheet in a lightning start for Blues.
The opening goal came after a poor defensive clearance from goalkeeper Tomas Holy gifted Blues a corner-kick. Stephen McLaughlin swung the ball into the box, finding Michael Turner who'd got up highest to expertly head the ball in after only eight minutes.
Three minutes later and Robinson – who was making his first league start since October 14th – volleyed the ball in from close range after Ben Coker was originally denied by a reaction save from Holy.
And Southend made it three goals in 11 minutes when McLaughlin cut in from the right to rattle the crossbar with Kightly following up to nod the ball into an empty net to put Blues in dreamland.
Southend had only scored three goals in the whole of March, but they had already matched that tally inside the opening 18 minutes against their local rivals and it could have been four had Holy not managed to tip over Max Ehmer’s wayward header.
Blues though would grab a remarkable fourth goal before the half-time interval as McLaughlin grabbed his obligatory goal against Gillingham, glancing his header into the bottom corner from Kightly’s corner sparking some Gills fans to head for the exits.
A catastrophic first-half for the visitors was then rounded off with Lee Martin being given his marching orders for a late tackle on Robinson which resulted in referee Graham Salisbury brandishing the Gills captain with a straight red card.
With the man advantage, Southend continued their dominance in the second half and Holy needed to be on hand to save from McLaughlin and Cox before a parrying a thunderous strike from Dru Yearwood who was looking for his first senior goal.
Tom Eaves – who scored a hat-trick in the reverse fixture between the two – had already had one goal disallowed in the first-half for offside and repeated the trick midway through the second-half to add to Gillingham’s frustrations.
Blues went close to to rounding off their biggest win of the season with a fifth when Kightly’s corner-kick found its way to Turner at the far post but the defender wasn’t able to divert the ball on target for his second of the game.
Josh Wright came on with eight minutes remaining to face his former side for the first time since leaving the club in September but he wasn’t able to grab a fairytale goal against his former employers.
Powell’s side would comfortably see out the remainder of the match against the 10-men and went close again to a fifth late on when Cox dragged his shot across the face of goal and just wide of Holy’s right-hand post.
Blues XI: Oxley, Coker (C), Turner, Kightly, Timlin, Cox, McLaughlin (Harrison 69’), Yearwood (Wright 82’), Demetriou, Robinson (Ladapo 77’), White. Subs Not Used: Bishop, Wordsworth, Ferdinand, Mantom
Gillingham XI: Holy, O’Neill (Nugent 50’), Garmston, Ehmer, Zakuani, Wagstaff, Hessenthaler (Nasseri 46’), Eaves, Martin (C), Ogilvie (Wilkinson 25’), Byrne. Sub Not Used: Hadler, List, Murphy, Moussa
Referee: Graham Salisbury
Assistants: Graham Kane & Louis Marks
Fourth Official: Paul Yates
Southend United: Michael Turner 8’, Theo Robinson 11’, Michael Kightly 18’, Stephen McLaughlin 40’
Southend United: None
Gillingham: Jake Hessenthaler 15’, Ben Nugent 57’, Scott Wagstaff 62’, Mark Byrne 65’
Southend United: None
Gillingham: Lee Martin 45+3’