Southend United were beaten 3-2 by Burton Albion at Roots Hall as their run of defeats was extended to five matches.
Burton came flying out of the blocks and took a deserved early lead through Lucas Akins’ cushioned volley that went in off the inside of Patrik Gunnarsson’s right-hand post.
Gunnarsson’s opposite number though was at fault for Blues’ equaliser as he punched into his own net after Sam Mantom’s volley had looped into the air from a deflection.
But Kieran O’Hara was bailed out by his fellow Burton players as Ryan Edwards would bundle the visitors back in front before Jamie Murphy capitalised on a mistake by Miles Mitchell-Nelson.
John-Joe O’Toole scored an own goal in stoppage time, but it was a first victory in seven for Burton as they make a late push for the top-six, while Southend’s misery continued.
Defeat on Tuesday night against Gillingham had extended Southend’s losing run to four matches and in an attempt to arrest the slide, Sol Campbell made two changes to his side for the visit of Burton.
In came Joe Shaughnessy – his first start since November – as well as goalkeeper Patrik Gunnarsson who only joined the club on an emergency loan from Brentford earlier in the week.
And it wasn’t long before the Icelander was picking the ball out of his net as Burton capitalised on a bright start by opening the scoring inside the first five minutes through Lucas Akins.
Full back Colin Daniels found space on the left to whip in a cross towards Akins who cushioned the ball back across goal on the volley, seeing his effort going in off the inside of the post.
It was a perfect start for the Brewers who’d come into the game on a six-game winless run but Blues went close to cancelling out their early advantage when Sam Mantom glanced a header just wide.
The two sides exchanged further chances with Oliver Sarkic forcing a fingertip save out of Gunnarsson before Stephen McLaughin had a headed chance easily saved by Kieran O’Hara.
Southend then saw a glorious chance go begging when Mantom hit the post before Charlie Kelman’s follow-up was blocked before Blues were gifted the most fortuitous of equalisers.
McLaughlin picked out Mantom whose volley looped up into the air off a Burton defender. Inexplicably, O’Hara chose to punch rather than catch the ball only to punch it into his own net.
It was Blues’ first goal since McLaughlin’s brilliant strike against Blackpool two weeks ago and the two goals couldn’t have been more contrasting as the two sides went into the break level.
Much like the first half, however, Burton would restore their lead within five minutes of the restart as Ryan Edwards bundled the ball across the line to put Nigel Clough’s side back in front.
A teasing cross from Joe Powell hit Joe Shaughnessy and looked destined for the back of his own net before Edwards piled in to force it over the line despite the best efforts from Blues’ defence.
Southend were facing a fifth straight league defeat though Kelman had a half-chance come and go when he got on the end of a McLaughlin cross only to head well wide of the target.
Elvis Bwomono also tried his luck from distance with a dipping shot that flew just over the crossbar but Burton would all but seal their first win in seven after a mistake but Miles Mitchell-Nelson.
The young defender tried playing out from the back only to pass the ball straight to Nathan Broadhead who teed up Jamie Murphy who fired in his fifth goal in seven matches for the Brewers.
Murphy’s strike had all but wrapped up the points for the visitors, but Mark Milligan did have a chance to make the final few minutes interesting, forcing a superb reaction save out of O’Hara.
And Southend did give themselves some late hope when Sam Barratt’s long throw was flicked into his own net by John-Joe O’Toole in the first minute of stoppage time.
Blues threw everything forward to nick an unlikely equaliser but couldn’t grab a third goal as they ended a week of three successive home games without picking up a point.
Blues XI: Gunnarsson, Bwomono, Milligan, Dieng (C), McLaughlin, Mantom (Barratt 69’), Shaughnessy, Kelman, Clifford, Egbri (Kinali 59’), Mitchell-Nelson. Subs Not Used: Seaden, Goodship, Kyprianou, Hutchinson, Rush
Burton Albion XI: O’Hara, Brayford (C), Daniel, Edwards (Sbarra 78’), Quinn (Wallace 90’), Akins, Shaughnessy, Sarkic (Broadhead 62’), O’Toole, Powell, Murphy. Subs Not Used: Garratt, Fraser, Hutchinson, Thomas
Referee: Craig Hicks
Assistants: Leigh Crowhurst & Stuart Butler
Fourth Official: Neil Lugg
Southend United: Sam Mantom 29’, John-Joe O’Toole OG 90+1’
Burton Albion: Lucas Akins 5’, Ryan Edwards 49’, Jamie Murphy 74’
Southend United: None
Burton Albion: John-Joe O’Toole 54’, Lucas Akins 90+3’
Attendance: 5,571 (142 Away Fans)