Southend United continued their unbeaten start under Chris Powell with a hard-fought 3-1 win against Portsmouth at Roots Hall.
Blues were gifted the opening goal inside the first six minutes when Matt Clarke scored past his own goalkeeper in an attempt to clear the ball from Shayon Harrison after he’d nipped into the area.
The home side then doubled their lead with Jason Demetriou’s well-struck effort that curled away from the despairing dive of Luke McGee with less than quarter of an hour on the clock.
Portsmouth got themselves back in the game before the break when Gareth Evans tapped in from close range and the visitors pressed for an equaliser early in the second-half.
Their momentum though was quashed when Nathan Thompson was shown a straight red card for a foul on Ben Coker and Southend would make the game safe with Demetriou’s second late on.
The win maintained Blues’ unbeaten start since Powell took charge with the Southend boss now overseeing four wins and a draw out of his five league games at the helm.
The only game Blues haven’t won in that spell was the stalemate against Bury at Gigg Lane on Tuesday night and Powell made just the one change from that draw with Simon Cox coming in.
The visitors Portsmouth remained unchanged and they started the brighter of the two sides, creating a glorious chance inside the first minute for Conor Chaplin which he screwed wide.
It looked like Pompey would be the likelier of the two to score early on, but Southend caught Portsmouth with a sucker-punch after just six minutes when an own goal put Blues in front.
Shayon Harrison capitalised on some hesitant Portsmouth defending to steal the ball inside the area before Matt Clarke came in to clear, only to put the ball beyond Luke McGee and into his own net.
The goal for Blues came arguably against the run of play but Powell’s side quickly built on that opening goal by doubling their advantage with less than quarter of an hour played.
Cox’s cross to the far post was picked up by Stephen McLaughlin who had the wherewithal to pick out the run of Jason Demetriou with the Cypriot calmly stroking the ball home from outside the box.
Southend had Kenny Jackett’s side rocking with two quickfire goals and they went close to grabbing a third when birthday-boy Dru Yearwood’s low strike fizzed just wide of McGee’s post.
After a frenzied opening for the home side the game settled down and Portsmouth got themselves back into the contest before the interval as they got one back through Gareth Evans.
A low ball across the face of goal from Jamal Lowe wasn’t dealt with by the Blues back-line, allowing Brett Pitman to prod the ball back into the path of Evans to tap in and halve the deficit.
That was to be Evans’ final act as he was immediately substituted after sustaining an injury in scoring the goal, which left Blues with a slender one-goal lead going into the half-time interval.
Having gotten themselves back into the game before the interval, Portsmouth were lively at the start of the second-half and went close when a Conor Chaplin half-volley whistled past the post.
Moments later and Lowe got the wrong side of the Blues back-line, but from a tight angle, he couldn’t arch his shot past Oxley with the ball flying across the face of goal.
Portsmouth were continuing to push Southend back as Powell’s side were having to fend off sustained pressure from the visitors.
But that pressure was lifted somewhat when Pompey were reduced to 10-men after the hour mark when Nathan Thompson was shown a straight red-card for a crunching tackle on Coker.
The Blues captain was given a lengthy spell of treatment after the challenge, but he was fit enough to continue and was able to watch on as Southend had a superb chance to extend their lead.
Michael Timlin’s cross from the left was floated perfectly onto the head of Harrison who was unmarked at the far post but the Tottenham-loanee somehow missed the target from six yards.
Cox then forced a brilliant save out of McGee after McLaughlin’s cross fell to the Blues striker at the far-post, drilling a low strike which was saved by the Portsmouth stopper with his right foot.
The one goal lead meant that Portsmouth still had a chance of stealing something from the game and once again Lowe looked their biggest threat, cutting onto his right foot before firing just wide.
Southend though would put the game beyond doubt and secure the points as Demetriou slotted in to score his eighth goal of the season and score Southend’s third of the game.
A brilliant run from Yearwood allowed the 18-year-old to slide the ball into the full-back Demetriou who slid the ball past McGee at his near post – possibly via a deflection – to wrap up the win.
Blues XI: Oxley, Coker (C), Ferdinand, Turner, Timlin, Cox (Wright 87’), McLaughlin, Yearwood, Ladapo (Fortune 73’), Harrison, Demetriou (Bwomono 90+4’). Subs Not Used: Bishop, McGlashan, Kyprianou, Robinson
Portsmouth XI: McGee, Walkes, Clarke, Burgess, Pitman (C)(Hawkins 69’), Donohue, Lowe, Chaplin, Thompson, Evans (Ronan 38’), Close. Sub Not Used: Bass, Naismith, Deslandes, May, Haunstrup
Referee: Lee Probert
Assistants: Scott Ledger & Marc Perry
Fourth Official: Craig Hicks
Southend United: Matt Clarke O.G. 6’, Jason Demetriou 12’, 84’
Portsmouth: Gareth Evans 36’
Southend United: None
Southend United: None
Portsmouth: Nathan Thompson 64’