Southend’s troubles continued as they fell to a 2-0 defeat on the road to Peterborough United, thanks to goals from Marcus Maddison and Ben White.
Blues struggled to create anything clear in front of goal and Posh took a deserved lead before the break when Maddison’s free-kick flew past the despairing dive of Mark Oxley.
The home side had the ball in the net again after the break, but Ivan Toney’s effort was ruled out for offside before White nodded Posh further in front after another Maddison free-kick was parried.
Chris Powell’s side looked short of ideas to get back into the game while his opposite number gleefully watched on as Peterborough picked up a big three points for their promotion push.
The visitors, on the other hand, remain in the thick of a relegation battle, remaining outside the drop-zone still on goal difference with seven league games remaining.
The Southend boss had described today’s visit to Peterborough as the first of eight cup finals as Blues looked to steer themselves clear of the drop-zone, following a run of 10-games without a win, dating back to mid-January and a win at Bradford City.
And after last weekend’s defeat to AFC Wimbledon, Powell made six changes to his starting line up with Elvis Bwomono, Michael Kightly, Dru Yearwood, Sam Mantom, Taylor Moore and Charlie Kelman all coming in as Blues shaped up in a 4-4-2 formation.
In front of them was a Posh side who made four changes and whose chase for a top-six spot had been hampered by just two wins in their last nine, and three defeats in a row, but the home side started brightly and had three clear-cut chances in a matter of seconds early in the first-half.
Blues were lucky to survive as Ivan Toney’s header was tipped onto the crossbar by Mark Oxley. As the ball bounced down off the woodwork, Ben White’s effort was blocked by Elvis Bwomono before Oxley denied Toney again with another header all in the space of 15 seconds.
Backed by a vociferous travelling support, in part thanks to the free travel laid on for Blues fans by the club, Southend could only create half-chances with Simon Cox’s header over the crossbar the best Chris Powell’s side could muster before the break.
Peterborough remained on top for the majority of the opening 45 minutes before deservedly taking the lead through a superb free-kick from Marcus Maddison. Following a foul on Toney by Rob Kiernan, Maddison ripped the ball beyond Oxley from 30-plus-yards to put Posh in front.
Darren Ferguson’s side had the ball in the back of the net again early in the second-half when Toney fired in after Lee Tomlin’s effort was parried by Oxley, only for the referee’s assistant to flag the Posh striker offside and rule the goal out to the relief of the Blues.
But their stay of execution didn’t last long as Peterborough doubled their lead before the hour mark with a Maddison free-kick playing a key part again. From a similar distance to his goal, Maddison’s set-piece dipped in front of Oxley, forcing him to parry with White on hand to head in the rebound.
Southend needed a goal and quick if they were to take anything from Peterborough and they had a great chance through Harry Bunn as he beat the offside trap. Goal side, the midfielder had Cox to pick out in the middle but his low cross was cut out before Sam Hart blazed over the bar.
Blues’ chances were dealt a further blow when Cox was forced to hobble off after picking up a knock in the first-half, being replaced by youngster Emile Acquah for his Southend debut but the teenager wasn’t able to help stem the tide.
Another youngster in Isaac Hutchinson was then introduced for the struggling Michael Kightly but Blues weren’t coming back, seeing their winless run extend to 11-games ahead of another crunch home game against fellow strugglers Shrewsbury Town next weekend.
Peterborough United XI: Chapman, Naismith, Woodyard (C), Tafazolli, White, Reed, Ward (Godden 74’), Toney, Lafferty, Maddison (Dempsey 85’), Tomlin (Dembele 74’). Subs Not Used: O’Malley, Cooper, Denton, Stevens
Blues XI: Oxley, Bwomono, Kightly (Hutchinson 79’), Dieng, Cox (Acquah 71’), Kiernan, Yearwood, Mantom (C), Moore, Kelman (Bunn 46’), Hart. Subs Not Used: Bishop, Hyam, Turner, White
Referee: A Young
Assistants: C Walchester & M Smith
Fourth Official: T Kettle
Peterborough United: Marcus Maddison 41’, Ben White 58’
Southend United: None
Peterborough United: Ivan Toney 81’
Southend United: Timothee Dieng 45+1’
Attendance: 7,585 (916 Away)