Blues’ unbeaten run came to an end as second-half goals from Jobi McAnuff and Conor Wilkinson condemned Southend to a 2-0 defeat against Leyton Orient at the Breyer Group Stadium.
After a goalless first-half in a chilly East London, Orient skipper McAnuff broke the deadlock eight minutes after the restart with a superbly taken free-kick from 25-yards, converting after Timothee Dieng brought down Wilkinson.
Wilkinson then sealed the victory with a little over 10 minutes remaining having seen an effort in the third minute cleared off the line, he made no mistake this time as he lifted the ball over the advancing Oxley as Southend were pushing for an equaliser.
With Stevenage winning earlier in the evening, it meant defeat for Blues saw them return to the foot of the League Two table and ended their unbeaten run at five matches, while Orient ended a losing run of three matches to climb to 10th.
It wasn’t the way Mark Molesley had hoped to end December. Having won three and draw two of their five games this month, the Blues boss made just the one enforced change from the side that beat local rivals Colchester on Boxing Day with Kyle Taylor being replaced by James Olayinka.
Orient, on the other hand, were looking to end a run of three straight defeats and it was an open start to proceedings in East London with Conor Wilkinson forcing Mark Oxley into action before Simeon Akinola and Terrell Egbri both had shots blocked all inside the first minute.
While those chances could be described as half-chances, there was nothing half about the chance the O’s had two minutes later as they sprung a counter-attack down the right. The ball in fell to Wilkinson who beat Oxley with his strike but couldn’t beat Sam Hart who cleared off the line.
Wilkinson was proving to be a tricky customer for Blues to repel and the Orient number nine went close again when slid in by Jobi McAnuff. Wilkinson opened his body up to curl an effort towards goal that narrowly missed the target.
Southend though weathered the storm and they grew into the game as the half wore on, with efforts from Timothee Dieng and Akinola not quite troubling goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux, while Oxley still needed to be alert to stop efforts from Lee Angol and Wilkinson as it remained goalless.
Blues began the second-half brightly and had their best chance of the evening so far fall to Akinola. The Southend frontman received the ball with his back to goal before turning and firing towards goal, with his effort being diverted wide.
Having defended doggedly in the first-half to keep Orient out, a well-taken free-kick from captain McAnuff undone Blues’ hard work to open the scoring. After Wilkinson was felled by Dieng on the edge of the area, McAnuff curled a superb free-kick beyond Oxley to put the home side in front.
Now chasing an equaliser, Molesley brought on Richard Taylor and gave a debut to Louis Walsh as Blues sacrificed a man at the back to go with a front-three of Akinola, Olayinka and Walsh as Southend tried to salvage their unbeaten run.
But with Blues throwing everything forward there were susceptible to the counter-attack and Wilkinson would put daylight between the two sides after a quick through ball from McAnuff found the run of the striker who lifted the ball over the advancing Oxley to make it two.
The lead proved to be insurmountable for Blues who were unable to get on the scoresheet as their 2020 ended in defeat and brought to an end their unbeaten December ahead of another trip to high-flying Newport County in the New Year.
Leyton Orient XI: Vigouroux, Ling, Cisse, Happe, McAnuff (C) (Kyprianou 85’), Clay (Dayton 90+4’), Wilkinson, Brophy, Akinola, Angol, Johnson (Sotiriou 90+2’). Subs Not Used: Widdowson, Coulson, Maguire-Drew
Blues XI: Oxley, Bwomono, Hobson, Olayinka (Halford 79’), Dieng, Akinola, Egbri, Nathaniel-George (Walsh 69’), Demetriou, Hart, White (C) (R Taylor 69’). Subs Not Used: Seaden, Howard, Phillips, Acquah
Referee: Craig Hicks
Assistants: Andrew Laver & Stuart Butler
Fourth Official: Sam Allison
Leyton Orient: Jobi McAnuff 53’, Conor Wilkinson 78’
Southend United: None
Leyton Orient: Lee Angol 90’, Danny Johnson 90+1’
Southend United: Timothee Dieng 52’, Elvis Bwomono 53'