Southend’s desperate form continued as they suffered a 1-0 defeat at home to AFC Wimbledon, with a goal from Joe Pigott extending Blues’ winless run to 10 matches.
As the wind of Storm Gareth whipped around Roots Hall, first-half chances were at a premium, with Michael Turner going closest with his header that was tipped over by Aaron Ramsdale.
Stephen McLaughlin then saw the best chance of the game go begging after the interval as he was put clean through only for a last-ditch block from Toby Sibbick to stop the Irishman.
And almost immediately Blues were made to pay for that missed chance with a defensive mix-up between Michael Turner and Mark Oxley allowing Joe Pigott to steal in and slide the visitors in front.
Southend pushed but couldn’t find an equaliser as Dons recorded their third win in a row to take them off the bottom of the table while putting Blues further in trouble.
Ahead of kick-off, boss Chris Powell described the game against Dons as the biggest game of the season and Blues knew that this afternoon would almost be a must-win following a run of nine games without a win, which had seen Southend drop to just two points above the relegation zone.
The visitors Wimbledon were entrenched in the relegation zone themselves, propping up the League One table, but they were in resurgent form thanks to a run of four wins from their last six, including back-to-back home victories against promotion-chasers Doncaster and Peterborough.
Powell made three changes from the side that fell apart against Scunthorpe in midweek and Blues carved out the first clear opening of the game when Harry Bunn wrestled control of the ball on the edge of the penalty area before dragging his shot wide.
In a game short on quality, thanks in part to the blustery conditions caused by Storm Gareth, Southend went close to taking the lead midway through the half when a Michael Turner header was superbly tipped over the crossbar by Dons ‘keeper Aaron Ramsdale.
One of Powell’s three changes, Mark Oxley - who was making his 100th Blues appearance – was forced into his first meaningful action by two former Southend players, parrying Anthony Wordsworth’s free-kick before claiming Joe Pigott’s bundled effort on the rebound.
It would remain goalless at the break, but Blues will feel they could have done better with a counter-attack right on the stroke of half-time as Stephen McLaughlin slid Simon Cox in but the Southend skipper couldn’t pick out a blue shirt in the box as the referee’s whistle blew.
With the wind at their backs second-half, Wimbledon enjoyed their best spell of the game after the break and went close to opening the scoring in front of their travelling fans when Michael Folivi was found at the far post only for his half-volley to be blocked by Sam Hart.
Blues had been second best after the interval, but they had the clearest chance of either side to score before the hour mark when McLaughlin went clean through. The Irishman though hesitated long enough for Toby Sibbick to block his shot before Terell Thomas cleared the ball off the line.
And Southend would be made to pay for not taking that opportunity in front of goal as a defensive lapse led to Dons opening the scoring. A long ball from the back caused a mix-up between Turner and Oxley, allowing Pigott to steal in, with the striker sliding the ball in to put the visitors in front.
The former Blues hero, who so memorably scored the equaliser at Wembley which helped Blues reach League One, had inflicted a potentially fatal blow to Southend’s chances of staying in the division while keeping the Dons on course for a third straight win to take them off the bottom.
Michael Kightly and Charlie Kelman were introduced and the youngster Kelman immediately had an opportunity to level the game but his shot lacked the power needed to trouble Ramsdale in goal as Southend’s troubles increased.
Despite a late push, which saw Timothee Dieng fire well wide from distance in injury time, Blues couldn’t break down a resilient Wimbledon who secured a third straight win – without conceding a goal – leaving Southend outside the relegation zone on goal difference only.
Blues XI: Oxley, Hyam (Yearwood 87’), Turner, Dieng, Cox (C), McLaughlin (Kightly 76’), Kiernan, Demetriou, Lennon (Kelman 76’), Bunn, Hart. Subs Not Used: Bishop, Mantom, Moore, White
AFC Wimbledon XI: Ramsdale, Nightingale (C) (Watson 46’), Thomas, Wagstaff, Hartigan, Seddon, Sibbick, Kalambayi, Pigott (Pinnock 87’), Wordsworth, Folivi (Connolly 70’). Subs Not Used: McDonnell, Barcham, McLoughlin, Rudoni
Referee: Brett Huxtable
Assistants: Paul Graham & Andrew Williams
Fourth Official: Michael Webb
Southend United: None
AFC Wimbledon: Joe Pigott 67’
Southend United: Sam Hart 79’
AFC Wimbledon: Anthony Wordsworth 52’
Attendance: 7,570 (748 Away)