Southend United’s poor luck continued as they fell to a controversial 3-2 defeat to Bolton Wanderers at The University of Bolton Stadium.
Harry Lennon had nodded the visitors in front after just 10 minutes, getting on the end of Sam Mantom’s corner kick to head into the back of the net.
Sol Campbell’s side though would go into the break 2-1 behind, with Joe Dodoo scoring a contentious equaliser, despite appearing to use his hand in the build-up.
The handball went unseen by referee Ben Toner who then seemed to ignore his linesman’s offside flag moments before Luke Murphy volleyed Bolton in front in first-half stoppage time.
Southend weren’t afraid to air their grievances about both goals, but they only had themselves to blame for Bolton’s third after a mistake from Timothee Dieng allowed Daryl Murphy in.
Dieng would atone for his error by glancing in Stephen McLaughlin’s free-kick to give Blues hope, but it proved too little too late for the visitors.
Defeat for Blues extends their winless run to 13 league matches, while Bolton ended a run of three games without a win and put themselves just two points behind Southend in the table.
Campbell will no doubt focus on those two controversial Bolton goals in the first-half, but he’ll likely be frustrated that Blues were unable to build on last weekend’s performance against Rotherham.
Following on from that 2-2 draw against The Millers, boss Sol Campbell chose to name an unchanged line up against Bolton Wanderers, the only side beneath Southend in the League One table.
Playing in their yellow away strip, the visitors looked assured on the ball early on and created a half-chance for Stephen McLaughlin who got underneath Harry Lennon’s cross to head over.
But just a few moments later, Lennon would be the one getting himself on the end of a cross from the left as the Blues defender would nod Southend into an early lead.
Sam Mantom’s corner found the centre back at the far post, with Lennon guiding the ball back across goal and into the back of the net to put Blues 1-0 up after just 10 minutes.
It was a moment of redemption for Lennon, who’d only recently returned to the side after a spell out for disciplinary reasons, but the goal would be one of his last acts as his match was cut short.
Stretching for a low ball which was fizzed dangerously across the box by Mark Milligan, Lennon appeared to get his leg caught in the turf and would eventually leave the field on a stretcher.
His withdrawal meant Campbell was forced to reshuffle his backline and would bring John White into the fray for the first time since September following an arm injury.
The long break to allow Lennon to receive treatment ended Southend’s early momentum, and after an inauspicious start from the home side, Bolton would manage to draw the game level.
A free-kick from the right was tossed into the box and would find its way through to Joe Dodoo who fired the ball across the face of Nathan Bishop and in to equalise.
Those in yellow vigorously appealed for a handball in the build-up by Dodoo, but nothing was given by referee Ben Toner, and that wasn’t where the controversy would end in the first-half.
Luke Murphy would go on to put Bolton in front two minutes into the minimum of six added on at the end of the first-half, chesting down a clearance before volleying the ball into the bottom corner.
But the Southend players were apoplectic at referee Toner who seemingly ignored his linesman’s offside flag in the build-up, with Blues’ protestations falling on death ears.
Undoubtedly feeling hard done by, Southend would have wanted to channel that frustration to force a comeback, but in the early throws of the second-half, they were unable to really threaten.
Campbell would bring on Tom Hopper for Jason Demetriou as the visitors went more attacking but the Blues boss couldn’t possibly legislate for a defensive slip that allowed Bolton to grab a third.
Milligan’s ball back to Timothee Dieng was miscontrolled by the Southend skipper, allowing Daryl Murphy to steal in and dink the ball over Bishop and put daylight between the two sides.
Southend desperately needed a goal to get themselves back into the contest and Dieng would make up for his error that had led to Daryl Murphy’s goal by nodding Blues to within one.
A McLaughlin free-kick was whipped into the penalty area, with Dieng’s glancing header leaving Remi Matthews routed to his line with a little less than 10 minutes of normal time to go.
The two-goal deficit though would prove too big to overturn for Southend as Bolton held out for a huge win that puts them within two points of Blues at the foot of the League One table.
Southend now must collect their thoughts and go again on Boxing Day for the visit of MK Dons to Roots Hall, as they look for a first win since beating the Dons back in September.
Bolton Wanderers XI: Matthews, Emmanuel, Lowe, Wright, L Murphy, D Murphy, Verlinden (Graham 90+3’), Dodoo, Darcy (O’Grady 85’), Bridcutt (C), Earl. Subs Not Used: Alexander, Chicksen, Politic, Edwards, Senior
Blues XI: Bishop, Bwomono, Milligan, Humphrys, Dieng (C), McLaughlin, Goodship (Rush 80’), Kiernan, Mantom, Demetriou (Hopper 62’), Lennon (White 17’). Subs Not Used: Oxley, Cox, Hamilton, Hutchinson
Referee: Ben Toner
Assistants: Abbas Khan & Matthew Bristow
Fourth Official: Garreth Rhodes
Bolton Wanderers: Joe Dodoo 36’, Luke Murphy 45+2’, Daryl Murphy 64’
Southend United: Harry Lennon 10’, Timothee Dieng 81’
Bolton Wanderers: Josh Earl 67’, Jake Wright 71’
Southend United: None