Southend United delivered a late Christmas present on Boxing Day as goals from Simeon Akinola and Timothee Dieng earnt Blues a 2-0 win in the Essex Derby against rivals Colchester United at Roots Hall.
Akinola headed the home side in front inside the opening 10 minutes, getting on the end of Sam Hart’s free-kick, to score his first goal in Southend colours before Dieng notched his first of the season finishing off a flowing move from Kyle Taylor.
Colchester went close to halving the deficit before the break when Kwame Poku hit the post and Southend had to put their bodies on the line in the second-half to keep The U’s at bay as Southend stood firm to pick up another huge three points to preserve their unbeaten December.
Boxing Day has been more than kind to Blues over the last decade with Southend not losing on December 26th since 2009, so Mark Molesley was looking to extend that unbeaten run, as well as Blues’ current run of four matches without defeat, with the visit of near-neighbours Colchester.
The Southend boss made four changes to the side that drew 1-1 at Mansfield with Tom Clifford, Alan McCormack and James Olayinka failing to shake off knocks picked up against the Stags, while Emile Acquah was relegated to the bench as Simeon Akinola run the line on his own upfront.
It proved to be a wise choice by Molesley as the Blues number nine headed Southend in front after inside the opening 10 minutes. Sam Hart picked the striker out with his in-swinging free-kick, allowing Akinola to nod in from eight-yards to give Southend the lead.
Blues were off to the perfect start, and they went close to doubling their advantage a few minutes later when Ashley Nathaniel-George – one of the four brought in – drove at the Colchester defence and after beating a couple of challenges he slashed wide of the target.
Southend though would go on and double their advantage with a well-taken effort from Timothee Dieng for his first of the season. Kyle Taylor teed the Frenchman up after a marauding run forward, sliding in Dieng whose first-time shot across Dean Gerken made it two.
The home side had been well worth their two-goal lead and they had chances to extend it to three with Shaun Hobson heading just wide from a set-piece routine before Nathaniel-George left his marker for dead and forced a save out of Gerken from a tight angle.
Colchester though were desperately unlucky not to halve the deficit before the break when Kwame Poku struck the woodwork. The U’s winger cut in from the right and curled a delightful effort beyond Mark Oxley only for it to come off the post to preserve Blues’ deserved lead.
The visitors needed a response in the second-half and had a couple of decent chances fall to Courtney Senior, whose touch let him down at a vital moment, and Michael Folivi whose low drive forced Oxley into making a smart save down low to his right.
After a long spell of pressure from the away side, Blues settled and had a great chance on the counter-attack come and go when Akinola’s cute header into Nathaniel-George set him free down the left but the winger didn’t quite have the legs to get his shot away.
With 15 minutes remaining Colchester went close when Folivi’s looping header required tipping over the crossbar by Oxley before Southend had a glorious chance to wrap up the win as the ball fell to Terrell Egbri inside the area only for his shot to be blocked by some last-ditch defending.
Substitute Jevani Brown forced another save out of Oxley, firing through a sea of bodies as Oxley showed good reactions to parry it clear, before tempers flared in stoppage time as a clash between Hart and Noah Chilvers sparked a flurry of yellow cards from referee Neil Hair.
Blues had been more than value for their victory which extended their unbeaten run to five matches – their longest unbeaten run since Chris Powell’s opening five games in charge in February 2018 – and lifted Southend off the bottom of the table ahead of Stevenage’s clash with Cheltenham.
Blues XI: Oxley, Bwomono, Hobson, Deign, Akinola (Acquah 73’), Egbri, Nathaniel-George (Howard 89’), Demetriou, K Taylor (Halford 79’), Hart, White (C). Subs Not Used: Seaden, Phillips, Sterling, Walsh
Colchester United XI: Gerken, Smith (C), Sowunmi, Senior, Brown, Chilvers, Eastman, Clampin, Poku (Gambin 60’), Stevenson (Lapslie 63’), Folivi (Bohui 79’). Sub Not Used: George, Welch-Hayes, Tovide, Sayer
Referee: Neil Hair
Assistants: Marc Wilson & Darren Blunden
Fourth Official: Anthony Da Costa
Southend United: Simeon Akinola 10’, Timothee Dieng 22’
Colchester United: None
Southend United: Sam Hart 17’, Shaun Hobson 90+6’
Colchester United: Tom Eastman 43’, Courtney Senior 59’, Noah Chilvers 90+6’, Tom Lapslie 90+6’