Southend ended their winless run in the league as goals from Timothee Dieng and Sam Mantom secured Blues a 2-0 win against Scunthorpe United at Roots Hall.
Both sides came into the match desperate for a positive result with Blues losing their last four in the league and Scunthorpe picking up just a point in their last four.
But it was the home side that took an early lead when Dieng got on the end of a Harry Bunn cross and powered his header beyond Jak Alnwick inside 10 minutes.
Stephen McLaughlin forced Alnwick into two top-drawer saves before the Irishman was involved in James Perch getting sent off for two fouls on the Blues midfielder before the break.
Despite their man advantage, Blues invited pressure from the 10-men of Scunthorpe who had a string of decent chances to level before Mantom settled the tie by scoring against his former side.
The victory was a much-needed tonic for Blues boss Chris Powell and a big confidence boost for his side ahead of Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup tie against Barnsley.
Going into this evening’s game, Powell will have wanted to call upon the spirit of his first ever game as Southend boss in January which saw Blues get a then morale-boosting 3-2 win against the Iron with a late winner from Michael Turner.
In an attempt to arrest a poor recent run in the league, Powell made three changes to his side that lost to struggling AFC Wimbledon with Luke Hyam, Stephen McLaughlin and Harry Bunn coming into the starting line-up to face Scunthorpe who themselves were in a poor run of form.
Just like last Saturday against the Dons, Southend started brightly and would take the lead in the eighth minute when Bunn’s cross from the left was powered home by the head of Timothee Dieng, with his header having too much power for goalkeeper Jak Alnwick.
Blues looked to strike again while the iron was hot and almost doubled their lead just three minutes later when McLaughlin cut inside onto his left foot and curled a superb effort towards goal which was only equalled by Alnwick’s fingertip save that sent it wide.
McLaughlin was starting to have his own personal battle with the Iron goalkeeper as just after the half-hour mark the Irishman curled another effort towards goal, this time from even further out, and once again Alnwick sprung across to his right to tip the ball away expertly.
Southend were deservedly in front and their task of picking up a win was only enhanced when James Perch was sent off before the break. He was shown a yellow for a follow-through on McLaughlin before being shown a second card 10 minutes later for another foul on the Blues midfielder.
Powell’s side had chances to double their lead before the interval but in the second-half, it was the visitors who were putting the pressure on Blues, despite their numerical disadvantage with Scunthorpe going close on three occasions, all from set-pieces.
Cameron Burgess headed the ball onto the top of the crossbar from a corner early on in the half before Lee Novak had a great chance with a free header which went wide minutes later. Josh Morris then forced Mark Oxley into a diving save direct from a free-kick as the Iron picked up the pressure.
Bearing in mind recent performances, there was a nervousness in the air around Roots Hall which only a second goal would have lifted, and Southend twice went close to lifting the mood when Bunn and Sam Mantom both flashed efforts wide.
But Southend, in the end, would make their extra man count and it would be a former Scunthorpe player that would end his former side’s resurgence as Mantom lashed the ball beyond Alnwick after Shawn McCoulsky’s header fell to the midfielder 15-yards out to double Blues' lead.
The second put some much-needed daylight between Blues and Scunthorpe but the visitors could have reduced the deficit to one again almost immediately when Novak hit the crossbar before Oxley gratefully pounced on the loose ball.
In injury-time Southend had the chance to put the gloss on the victory when substitute Michael Kightly weaved his way into the penalty box and saw his firm strike cleared off the line by Rory McArdle but Blues had done more than enough to seal a vital three points.
Blues XI: Oxley, Hyam, Dieng (McCoulsky 74’), Cox (Kightly 86’), McLaughlin, Mantom (C), Moore, Demetriou (Bwomono 15’), Bunn, Hendrie, White. Subs Not Used: Bishop, Yearwood, Klass, Robinson
Scunthorpe United XI: Alnwick, Horsfield (Lewis 74’), Ugbo (Wootton 76’), Morris, Dales (El-Mhanni 63’), Perch, Novak, Thomas, Goode, Burgess, McArdle (C). Subs Not Used: Flatt, Humphrys, Pugh
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Assistants: George Byrne & Daniel Cook
Fourth Official: Nigel Lugg
Southend United: Timothee Dieng 8’, Sam Mantom 80’
Scunthorpe United: None
Southend United: None
Scunthorpe United: James Perch 28’, Lee Novak 45+4’, Andy Dales 62’
Southend United: None
Scunthorpe United: James Perch 38’
Attendance: 5,110 (116 Away)