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SOUTHEND United ended a run of three successive draws with a 2-0 win against Rotherham United at Roots Hall.
Stephen McLaughlin fired the Shrimpers into an early lead before Simon Cox netted 11 minutes from time to ensure the hosts avenged the 5-0 drubbing they suffered against the Millers back in August.
Blues broke the deadlock after just seven minutes when Cox charged forward down the left hand side and played a fine cross-field pass into the path of McLaughlin who netted with a neatly controlled left footed shot.
Moments later, a fine Shrimpers move resulted in Dru Yearwood having a 25 yard shot tipped over by Rotherham goalkeeper Lewis Price.
But, with 17 minutes on the clock, Blues wasted a golden chance to double their lead as Marc-Antoine Fortune raced clean through on goal – only to be denied by Price as the Frenchman attempted to round the Millers shot-stopper.
With the Shrimpers remaining on top, Cox then saw his close range header from Sam Mantom’s fine right wing cross deflected over the crossbar before Michael Turner volleyed over a left wing corner from Anthony Wordsworth.
But, after surviving the scares, Rotherham came close to equalising on the stroke of half-time when David Ball’s low, left footed shot bobbled just wide of the right post.
Rotherham looked far more of a threat in the second half and, in the 63rd minute, a low, long range effort from Richie Towell was parried out by Mark Oxley with Jerry Yates losing his footing when attempting to latch onto the resulting rebound.
And in the 79th minute the new look Shrimpers doubled their lead, with Cox on target for the first time since Boxing Day.
The hard-working striker latched onto a long ball forward before beating Ajayi with a neat piece of skill in the left hand side of the penalty area and netting with an accurate low finish.
Two minutes after the strike, Shayon Harrison replaced Fortune in attack for the Shrimpers’ second change but the visitors still continued to attack.
As a result, Blues winger McLaughlin did well to clear Michael Smith’s header off the goal-line before Richie Towell hit the crossbar late on.
Southend ended a run of three successive draws with a 2-0 win against play-off chasing Rotherham at Roots Hall.
The Shrimpers, who had been beaten 5-0 by the Millers in August, went ahead after just seven minutes when Simon Cox played in Stephen McLaughlin to score with a neatly controlled left-footed shot.
Millers goalkeeper Lewis Price then stopped Marc-Antoine Fortune making it 2-0 when the striker was clean through on goal, before David Ball fired wide for the visitors on the stroke of half-time.
After the break, Rotherham stepped things up and Southend goalkeeper Mark Oxley denied Richie Towell from long range.
But the Shrimpers recovered strongly and doubled their lead in the 80th minute when Cox beat Semi Ajayi in the left-hand side of the penalty area before netting with a low shot for his first goal since Boxing Day.
The Millers still threatened, with Michael Smith having a header cleared off the line by McLaughlin before Towell hit the crossbar late on.
Rotherham United’s bid to firm up their position in the Sky Bet League One Play-off places was dealt a blow as they were defeated 2-0 by Southend United at Roots Hall.
The Millers struggled to find the form that saw them cruise past Northampton Town a week previously, with Chris Powell’s side prevailing thanks to goals from Stephen McLaughlin and Simon Cox either side of the interval.
Paul Warne made one change to the side that beat Northampton Town last Saturday. Goalkeeper Marek Rodak was missing on international duty, with Lewis Price coming in for his first league start of the campaign.
The Millers efforts to take control of the game in the early stages were admirable but their attacking intent was partially the reason they fell behind just seven minutes into the Roots Hall encounter.
A throw in on the Millers’ right flank saw Warne’s side concede possession with the hosts opting to get it forward quickly. Simon Cox showed his experience as he held off the challenge of Will Vaulks as he broke for goal before displaying good presence of mind to pick out the unmarked McLaughlin, who steadied himself before coolly slotting beyond Price to give his side an early lead.
Price was certainly the standout player inside the opening 20 minutes for the Millers and arguably the busiest but without his intervention Marc-Antoine Fortune would have doubled the home advantage. Cox was again the architect as he slipped a nicely weighted pass in behind the Millers defence, which saw Fortune spring the offside trap, but Price was alert to the danger and made an excellent save at the forward’s feet as he looked to round him one-on-one.
Williams was the first Millers player to catch sight of former Miller Mark Oxley’s goal, but it was by no means a clear cut chance. The Australian’s endeavour in the final third saw him pinch possession from Elvis Bwomono in the Southend back line before he found room for a shot, which was well-blocked by a home defender.
In an otherwise uneventful first half in front of goal, the Millers almost restored parity seconds before the half time interval. Vaulks’ deep cross was kept alive at the back post by Michael Smith, who found strike partner David Ball, but his snapshot from close range trickled agonisingly wide of the far post with Oxley beaten.
Millers boss Warne opted against any half time changes but his side continued to struggle to break down a resilient Southend rearguard.
Chris Powell’s side showed no signs of resting on their laurels at 1-0 and almost doubled their advantage five minutes after the restart when the dangerous Cox met a cross from the left at the far post. After taming the delivery in a bit of room, the forward lashed a thunderous effort at goal which looked destined for the target until Ajayi threw himself in the way to make a brave block at the expense of a corner.
The introduction of Anthony Forde and Jerry Yates in the places of Jon Taylor and Josh Emmanuel marked a shift in formation for the visitors to a 3-4-3 system, as Warne’s side looked for a way back into the game.
The reshuffle almost paid dividends soon after when Richie Towell caught sight of Oxley’s goal and took on an early effort from 20 yards out which could only be parried by the Southend stopper. Yates almost had his name on the scoresheet as he looked to sniff out a chance as the loose ball escaped Oxley’s grasp, but the substitute lost his footing at the vital moment and the chance went begging.
The Millers’ misery was compounded 10 minutes from time when Cox got his reward for a quality performance in the Southend attack with a classy goal. There looked to be little danger as the forward advanced with Ajayi for company, but he expertly tamed the bouncing ball to escape the defender’s attentions before slotting home with a cool finish and the near post to make it 2-0.
Warne’s side refused to relinquish in their attempts to find a way back into the game and came close to halving the deficit shortly after but McLaughlin’s goal line clearance from Michael Smith’s effort was enough to preserve the hosts’ clean sheet.
Towell’s looping cross almost inadvertently found it’s way beyond Oxley as it dropped out of the sky and onto the crossbar, before bouncing away from danger with Ajayi lurking in the hope of applying the finishing touch.
Substitute Joe Newell’s left-footed strike marked the Millers’ final foray forward but the winger’s effort summed up a disappointing afternoon for Warne’s side as it whizzed wide of the target.
The play-off-chasing Millers looked nothing like a side in fourth place in the table as they were beaten by a goal in each half in Essex.
The bobbly Roots Hall surface was full of sand and cut up horribly, but that was no excuse for one of the worst performances of the season by Paul Warne's men.
It took them over an hour to register an effort on target and they were second best to their midtable opponents.
Stephen McLaughin opened the scoring in the seventh minute and Simon Cox ended the contest in the 79th minute.
Rotherham made a sluggish start and were made to pay when Cox held off Will Vaulks and played in Stephen McLaughlin who had far too much room on Southend's right as he shot past Lewis Price.
Price had to tip over a Dru Yearwood 20-yarder six minutes later and did superbly soon after to save at the feet of Marc-Antoine Fortune when the striker was through on goal and looked certain to score.
The outplayed Millers were so poor in the opening period that it took them until the 44th minute to really worry the home side, David Ball swiveling in the six-yard box and screwing a low effort just wide.
Rotherham, while still well below par, tried to pick up the pace in the second half and Warne went three at the back in an attempt to force an equaliser.
In the 62nd minute, Richie Towell's shot was parried by Mark Oxley, with substitute striker Jerry Yates losing his footing as he tried to follow up.
But, with 11 minutes left, Cox beat Semi Ajayi far too easily and drilled home a second goal for the Shrimpers.
The Millers went close to scoring in an 83rd-minute goalmouth scramble and sub Joe Newell shot narrowly wide in time added on, but neither incident could disguise a woeful display by the visitors.