Southend grabbed a vital three points in their fight for survival as they put in a gutsy performance to beat Burton Albion 3-2 at Roots Hall with Timothee Dieng’s header proving to be the winner.
Blues took the lead midway through the first-half when Simon Cox played a low ball into the box for Sam Mantom to slide in and score from close range.
Southend then doubled their lead early in the second-half when Cox had the wherewithal to pick out Harry Bunn at the far post for a tap in and put daylight between the two sides.
Burton though got one back on the hour mark when John Brayford scored with a neat finish after getting on the end of a Reece Hutchinson cross.
But Blues would come back and restore their two-goal lead shortly after when Dieng rose highest to nod in Michael Kightly’s far post cross to put Southend on course for three huge points.
Mark Oxley pulled off a superb save to deny Lucas Akins late on before Marcus Harness slotted in to make it a nervy finish with four minutes of normal time remaining.
Kevin Bond’s side though held out for their first win under his stewardship and first since mid-January as they climbed out of the relegation zone ahead of the 3pm kick-offs.
Having been so hard done by in their draw with Walsall on Good Friday, Bond chose to stick with the same starting line up to face the Brewers at Roots Hall with Michael Turner making his 500th career appearance.
Visitors Burton had some misfortune of their own last time out, losing out to a controversial injury-time goal at home to Portsmouth, and they made the better start of the two sides with Mark Oxley needing to have his wits about him to prevent Lucas Akins getting in after just three minutes.
Nigel Clough’s side kept the pressure on in the early exchanges, but once Blues had weathered the storm, they began putting the Brewers under the cosh themselves, with Simon Cox and Harry Bunn linking well for the latter to volley straight at Stephen Bywater midway through the half.
Seconds though after missing that chance, Cox was on hand to provide Sam Mantom with the opportunity to put Blues in front which he duly took. Cox’s low cross from the right found the run of the Southend skipper who slid in to score from close range and give Kevin Bond’s side the lead.
Mantom’s seventh goal of the season was Southend’s first goal at home in over two months and the midfielder’s first strike since Blues beat Bradford back in January – Southend’s last win – an omen perhaps that Southend’s long winless run was finally about to come to an end?
Both sides had a couple of half chances before the break, with Cox heading over a Bunn cross before Ben Fox tested Mark Oxley from distance, before the game ground to a halt when Liam Boyce fell awkwardly in the area and needed to be taken off on a stretcher.
After the game resumed, Blues had a great chance to double their lead after a poor touch from Kyle McFadzean allowed Southend to start a counter. Mantom’s low cross found its way to Bunn on the edge of the area whose shot was superbly blocked by Kieran Wallace to keep the score at 1-0.
The effort from the Blues players was there for all to see in the first-half but they desperately needed a second to help lift any lingering nerves around Roots Hall and within five minutes of the interval, Bunn doubled Southend’s advantage.
Mantom’s second attempt at a corner went out to the far post and Cox’s snap-shot was well saved by Bywater. The ball though fell straight back to Cox who had the wherewithal to pick out Bunn at the far post for the simplest of tap-ins and put Southend two goals to the good.
That advantage though wouldn’t survive the hour as Burton got one back through their skipper John Brayford. Reece Hutchinson’s cross from the left found the run of Brayford who was unmarked, guiding his volley beyond Oxley to put the visitors back in it.
Brayford’s goal ramped up the pressure on the home side that only a third Blues goal would alleviate, and Southend went mightily close to putting daylight between the two sides when Luke Hyam jinked his way in to shoot only for Bywater to save with an instinctive swat at the ball.
Michael Kightly was Bond’s final throw of the dice from the bench and, against one of his former clubs, the midfielder made an immediate impact, winning a couple of free-kicks in dangerous areas and providing the assist for a vital third goal for Blues with less than 15 minutes remaining.
After being scythed down by Stephen Quinn right on the edge of the area, Kightly dusted himself off to clip the ball in at the far post and find the head of Timothee Dieng who headed beyond Bywater and put Southend, seemingly, on course for their first win in 16 games.
Burton though still had time to make it a nervy finish for Blues and after seeing Oxley deny Akins’ bullet-header with a superb diving save, the visitors would reduce the deficit to one once more when Marcus Harness was slid in to score past Oxley with four minutes remaining.
Five minutes added time were shown but Blues stoically held firm with the final whistle being greeted by a thunderous roar from the home fans who’d been superb all game, singing Blues towards victory as Southend climbed out of the drop zone ahead of the 3pm games.
Blues XI: Oxley, Bwomono, Turner, Cox, Kiernan (Hyam 46’), Yearwood (Dieng 67’), Mantom (C), Moore, Bunn (Kightly 72’), Hart, White. Subs Not Used: Bishop, McLaughlin, Hendrie, Kelman
Burton Albion XI: Bywater, Brayford (C)(Clarke 83’), Allen, McFadzean, Akins, Fox, Harness, Hutchinson, Wallace, Quinn (McCrory 78’), Boyce (Bradley 38’). Subs Not Used: Hawkins, Miller, Campbell
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Assistants: Andrew Williams & Rob Smith
Fourth Official: Stuart Butler
Southend United: Sam Mantom 18’, Harry Bunn 48’, Timothee Dieng 77’
Burton Albion: John Brayford 60’, Marcus Harness 86’
Southend United: Simon Cox 80’
Burton Albion: Ben Fox 74’, Stephen Quinn 77’
Attendance: 6,169 (142 Away)