Southend were unable to build on last weekend’s impressive win as Matty Pearson’s header gave Luton Town a deserved 1-0 win at Roots Hall.
Blues never truly looked at the races as the Hatters extended their unbeaten league run to 16-games with the three points sending them to the top of the table with Portsmouth in cup action.
Luton dominated possession from the start with Nathan Bishop pulling off a fine save with his legs to prevent Jack Stacey opening the scoring.
Pearson though headed Mick Harford’s side in front just before the half-hour mark, getting on the end to James Justin’s corner to nod beyond Bishop in front of over 2,000 travelling fans.
Southend didn’t really trouble Luton after that, with Simon Cox’s speculative effort from distance – which forced a good save from James Shea – the best the home side could muster.
The defeat left Blues still searching for their first back-to-back league wins since September as Luton maintained their unbeaten run under interim manager Mick Harford.
Unfortunately for Southend it was somewhat a case of ‘After the Lord Mayor’s show’ after a fantastic win at Bradford City last weekend lifted the spirits around the club.
In an attempt to bring that feel good factor back to Roots Hall, Southend made just the one enforced change for the visit of Luton with Luke Hyam having to miss out with a hamstring injury, being replaced by Dru Yearwood, while Stephen Humphrys and Sam Hart made their home debuts.
Luton too won 4-0 last time out against Peterborough at home and they were unchanged, and the Hatters enjoyed a lot of the ball in the opening exchanges at Roots Hall with only an off-target effort from Jack Stacey to show for it in the first 10 minutes.
Shooting towards their 2,000-plus away fans, Luton continued to dominate possession and they carved out the first clear chance of the game when Luke Berry picked out Stacey with a defence-splitting pass only for Nathan Bishop to superbly save Stacey’s shot with his legs.
The visitors continued to press as Southend struggled to find a rhythm and the Hatters would make their early pressure count midway through the half when James Justin’s corner was headed beyond Bishop by Matty Pearson to give Luton a one-goal lead.
All of Blues’ last seven league wins had come without conceding a goal, so they’d have to come from behind for the first time since mid-October to claim three points and Humphrys had a half-chance to level easily gathered by James Shea who comfortably saved the striker’s header on goal.
Luton had been deserving of their half-time lead and they went close to doubling their advantage within a minute of the restart when Hatters captain Sonny Bradley was found at the far-post, with his side-foot volley well saved by the feet of Bishop.
Southend just couldn’t get a grip of the ball as Luton pushed for a second and a superb Kazenga LuaLua cross from the left required a last-ditch header from Taylor Moore to prevent James Collins adding to his hat-trick from last weekend with a tap in at the far-post.
Berry dragged a shot wide for the visitors before the Hatters left-back Justin cut onto his right outside of the penalty area and curled a delightful effort just over the crossbar as Luton edged closer to the points they needed to go top of the League One table.
Blues desperately needed a spark and Simon Cox thought that shoot-on-sight was the best policy, forcing Shea into action with a shot from 30-yards which had to be tipped wide by the former Arsenal goalkeeper to keep the visitors in front.
That though was the best Southend could muster as Luton went close again to doubling their advantage late on when a low cross into the box found Collins who somehow blazed over from eight yards out.
Pearson’s header though turned out to be more than enough for the Hatters who held firm to complete a league double over Blues, with the three points seeing them rise to the top of the table, two points clear of Portsmouth.
Blues XI: Bishop, Bwomono, Turner, Dieng, Cox, Yearwood (Kelman 69’), Mantom (C)(McLaughlin 84’), Moore, Humphrys, Hart, White. Subs Not Used: Smith, Kightly, Klass, Robinson, Hutchinson
Luton Town XI: Shea, Justin McCormack, Bradley (C), Pearson, Stacey, Berry, Shinnie, Mpanzu, Collins, LuaLua (Moncur 86’). Subs Not Used: Isted, Potts, Thorne, Jarvis, Jones, Sheehan
Referee: Thomas Bramall
Assistants: George Byrne & Nicholas Cooper
Fourth Official: Bhupinder Gill
Southend United: None
Luton Town: Matty Pearson 29’
Southend United: Dru Yearwood 28’, Sam Hart 65’
Luton Town: Alan McCormack 90+4'
Attendance: 8,460 (2037 Away)