Southend fell just short of a remarkable comeback as late goals from Simon Cox and a wonder goal from Charlie Kelman couldn’t prevent a 3-2 defeat to Plymouth Argyle at Roots Hall.
The visitors looked home and hosed after they went 3-0 up with 15-minutes to go, with Antoni Sarcevic opening the scoring midway through the first-half.
Former Blues striker Freddie Ladapo grabbed his 13th goal of the season two minutes after the interval and the game looked beyond reach for Southend when Ruben Lameiras scored a third.
Southend grabbed what looked at the time just a consolation when Simon Cox scored from the penalty spot after Sam Mantom’s strike hit a hand inside the area.
Before youngster Charlie Kelman scored from inside his own half to lob goalkeeper Kyle Letherhan to put Southend within a goal of an unlikely point.
The comeback though was too little too late for Blues, as Plymouth grabbed their third league win in a row and remain unbeaten against Southend in their last seven matches.
Despite the frantic end to the game, ultimately it wasn’t the result Chris Powell’s depleted Southend side were looking for with Blues, prior to kick off, having the opportunity to climb to eighth in the table had they have picked up maximum points this afternoon.
The Blues boss made two changes from the side that won their last league outing against Gillingham on New Year’s Day, with John White and Simon Cox coming as Dru Yearwood made his 50th appearance for the club.
The visitors Plymouth were unchanged from their last outing against Oxford United, with former Blues striker and Argyle top scorer this season Freddie Ladapo starting up front for Derek Adams’ side who were looking for a third straight league win.
The aforementioned Lapado had a point to prove against his former employers in his first visit to Roots Hall since departing the club in the summer and he had a superb chance to open the scoring snuffed out by an equally superb last-ditch tackle from John White early on.
Blues, short of options, had nine youth graduates in their matchday squad. Isaac Hutchinson was one of those and he spurned a good chance to break the deadlock when a cross from the right fell to the feet of the youngster who couldn’t find the target from inside the area.
Argyle belied their position in the table and looked threatening going forward with a Ruben Lameiras shot being blocked by Stephen Hendrie before Hendrie made an error to allow the visitors to take the lead midway through the half.
The Scottish full-back tried nodding the ball back to another Blue shirt, only for his header to be picked off by Antoni Sarcevic who expertly rifled the ball across Nathan Bishop and into the bottom corner to give Argyle the lead.
Southend fans were starting to vent their frustration as Powell’s side lacked the creative edge to grab an equaliser but they went very close to going in level at the break when Sam Mantom’s corner was headed on target by Timothee Dieng only for David Fox to head the ball off the line.
Argyle were worth their lead going into the break but the last thing Powell would have wanted was for that advantage to be doubled early in the second-half. However, that’s exactly what Argyle did less than two minutes after the interval through the returning Ladapo.
The Plymouth striker had all the time in the world to tee up his strike after being found by a long ball forward by Fox, calmly stroking the ball beyond Bishop and into the back of the net to give Argyle a commanding two-goal lead.
Blues continued to struggle going forward and couldn’t carve out any clear openings, with Cox heading over Hutchinson’s cross the best Southend could muster, before the visitors made the game all but safe with over 15-minutes remaining through Lameiras.
Bishop’s ball out from the back was quickly seized upon, leaving the ball to be looped into the penalty area. It looked as if the referee was going to award a penalty for a clear shove on Graham Carey by Dieng but it mattered not as Lameiras swept the loose ball home to seal the victory.
Southend were able to get one goal back before the final whistle when Mantom’s shot hit Ryan Edwards' arm inside the area, giving Simon Cox the chance to score from the penalty spot, expertly beating Kyle Letheren to reduce the arrears.
But out of nowhere, Letheren was picking the ball out the back of his net for a second time when youngster Charlie Kelman – just 17-years-old – scored an outrageous goal to put Southend within one of a remarkable point, lobbing the goalkeeper from inside his own half.
The memorable goal from the striker came just a little too late though to complete an unbelievable comeback for Blues who were valiant in defeat, but still ended the game without a point as Argyle eased their relegation fears with a third straight win.
Blues XI: Bishop, Bwomono, Turner, Dieng, Cox, Yearwood, Mantom (C), Bunn (Kightly 34’), Hendrie, Hutchinson (Kelman 71’), White. Subs Not Used: Smith, Hyam, McLaughlin, Klass, Wabo
Plymouth Argyle XI: Letheren, Sawyer (C), Songo’o, Edwards, Sarcevic, Fox, Carey (Jephcott 89’), Lameiras, Canavan, Ladapo (Taylor 90+1’), Smith-Brown. Subs Not Used: Macey, Riley, Ainsworth, Wootton, Threlkeld
Referee: Graham Salisbury
Assistants: Gareth Viccars & Stephen Brown
Fourth Official: David Rock
Southend United: Simon Cox (p)86’, Charlie Kelman 90+2’
Plymouth Argyle: Antoni Sarcevic 21’, Freddie Ladapo 49’, Ruben Lameiras 74'
Southend United: Simon Cox 54’, Stephen Hendrie 55’, Timothee Dieng 61’
Plymouth Argyle: Antoni Sarcevic 54’, David Fox 62’, Graham Carey 87’
Attendance: 6,851 (583 Away)