Southend’s winless run continued as they lost 3-0 to Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium with goals from John Marquis, Mallik Wilks and Herbie Kane.
Despite a bright start from the visitors, Rovers captain Marquis nodded Doncaster in front after less than quarter of an hour when he was found by a James Coppinger cross to score the opener.
Southend had a good opportunity to level shortly after the interval through Simon Cox but they then conceded a second as Wilks’ low drive deceived Nathan Bishop at his near post.
Rovers had chances to extend their lead further, with Marquis seeing one effort come off the post before Elvis Bwomono blocked another goal-bound effort on the line.
And eventually, they did find a third when Marquis broke clear, teeing up Herbie Kane to tap in from close range to help cement Rovers’ place in the play-off places.
The win for the home side also ensured Doncaster continued their stranglehold over Southend, extending their unbeaten run against Blues to nine games, while Chris Powell’s side remain without a win in their last four matches with Portsmouth next up at Roots Hall on Saturday.
With a date with Crystal Palace in the Emirates FA Cup on the horizon, Doncaster boss Grant McCann insisted that his Rovers side wouldn’t look past Powell’s Blues at the Keepmoat and McCann resisted the temptation to rotate his squad by naming an unchanged line up against Southend.
Southend, on the other hand, made two changes, one enforced, with the suspended Dru Yearwood replaced by Michael Klass – his first league start – and Stephen McLaughlin coming in for Michael Kightly and the visitors made a lively start.
Early efforts from Elvis Bwomono and Simon Cox were well blocked by the red and white shirts of Rovers as Southend failed to get through and test Marko Marosi, but Blues were then caught by a sucker punch 14 minutes in as the home side took an early lead.
A hotly disputed corner that was awarded against John White found its way to James Coppinger who expertly whipped the ball onto the head of captain John Marquis, with the striker gladly accepting the invitation to head the ball beyond Nathan Bishop from 10 yards out.
The game’s first bit of quality had unlocked the Southend defence and Rovers almost scored again shortly after Marquis’ header, when Ben Whiteman’s strike took a wicked deflection only to be gathered by Bishop who’d adjusted his body well to make the save.
Southend had an opportunity to level midway through the half with a Timothee Dieng header that was easily held by Marosi before Sam Hart had to be on his toes up the other end to prevent Marquis grabbing a second with a superb recovery tackle.
And Blues were living dangerously as the half came to a close with Bishop springing across superbly to his right to prevent Ali Crawford’s free-kick finding the net. From the resulting corner, Whiteman’s header came off John White and struck the face of the crossbar before Southend hurriedly cleared.
Doncaster carried that forward momentum into the second-half and within a minute of the restart Marquis was causing problems again, doing well to spin his man before firing a low shot towards goal that was well saved by Bishop down to his right.
With just a one-goal margin, Southend were very much still in this contest and they had a glorious chance to level go begging when the ball fell to Cox at the far post, but his goal-bound effort was bravely blocked by Paul Downing to ensure the home side remained in front.
That chance seemed to give Blues a little bit of impetus as they pushed for an equaliser, but they soon found themselves further behind as Doncaster extended their lead through Wilks to all but end Southend’s hopes of taking anything back home to Essex.
The Rovers number seven found the ball at his feet on the right-hand side of the penalty area before firing low between the legs of Hart, deceiving Bishop at his near-post, and putting Doncaster in touching distance of extending their unbeaten run against Southend to nine matches.
Things could have got worse for Blues as Danny Andrew’s free-kick was headed against the post by Marquis. Wilks then broke free and was stopped by a sprawling Bishop only for the ball to fall to Marquis who saw his effort brilliantly blocked on the line by Elvis Bwomono.
But Doncaster would eventually grab a third to seal the three points with Marquis once again involved, breaking free down the right before teeing the ball up for Herbie Kane to have the simplest of tap-ins to make it a night to forget for Powell’s side.
Doncaster Rovers XI: Marosi, Andrew, Wilks, Whiteman, Marquis (C), Crawford, Anderson, Kane (Smith 77’), Coppinger (Sadlier 69’), Downing, Lewis (Blair 65’). Subs Not Used: Jones, Butler, Rowe May
Blues XI: Bishop, Bwomono, Dieng, Cox, McLaughlin, Mantom (C), Klass (Kightly 58’), Moore, Humphrys, Hart, White (Turner 46’). Subs Not Used: Smith, Lennon, Wabo, Kelman, Hutchinson
Referee: Anthony Backhouse
Assistants: Barry Gordon & Joe Clark
Fourth Official: Darren Drysdale
Doncaster Rovers: John Marquis 14’, Mallik Wilks 55’, Herbie Kane 73’
Southend United: None
Doncaster Rovers: Aaron Lewis 26’
Southend United: None
Attendance: 6,557 (206 Away)