Southend United lost 3-1 to Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium on a night where Academy product Harry Phillips scored on his Blues debut.
The youngster’s goal 20 minutes from time was the highlight on a disappointing evening for Sol Campbell’s side who were already 3-0 down when Phillips’ deflected effort looped in.
Doncaster opened the scoring midway through the first-half when Wolves loanee Niall Ennis scored with a well-taken effort on the turn, firing low past Mark Oxley.
And their lead was doubled before the break when Kieran Sadlier curled one in before nodding Rovers further in front shortly after the restart to seal the points before Phillips struck.
Defeat for Blues ended their unbeaten start to 2020 and their four-game unbeaten run while Doncaster picked up their first win in three matches.
Southend had travelled to the Keepmoat Stadium with renewed confidence after Sol Campbell finally tasted league victory as Southend manager last time out against Accrington Stanley.
10-days removed from that win at the Wham Stadium, Campbell made two changes to his side for the visit to Doncaster Rovers with Stephen Humphrys and Harry Phillips coming in.
Southend had failed to beat Doncaster in any of their previous 10 meetings and back in October, Rovers thumped Blues 7-1, but it was the visitors with the first chance on goal through Humphrys.
A short backpass from Cameron John was pounced upon by Humphrys who was one on one with Seny Dieng, but the Rovers goalkeeper made himself big to stop Southend taking an early lead.
The home side responded quickly and only some last-ditch defending from Blues stopped John Taylor and Kieran Sadlier from having efforts on goal before Reece James fired one wide.
Doncaster though would make the breakthrough midway through the first-half when Niall Ennis controlled the ball on the edge of the area with his back to goal before scoring on the turn.
It was a well-taken strike from the Wolves loanee, but Southend almost came up with an immediate equaliser as Jason Demetriou’s cross was headed onto the post by Humphrys.
Southend’s number seven picked up a knock in trying to score the equaliser, leaving Blues down to 10-men for almost 10 minutes, allowing Doncaster to push forward for a second goal.
Tom Anderson saw a header cleared off the line by Stephen McLaughlin moments after Sadlier had curled an effort wide, but before the half was over Sadlier would find himself on the scoresheet.
Doncaster’s leading scorer this season cut onto his right-foot before curling a delightful effort beyond a motionless Mark Oxley as Rovers went into the interval with a two-goal lead.
Southend knew they faced an uphill battle in the second-half if they were to maintain their unbeaten start to 2020 but any hope they had of getting a result was dashed when Sadlier nodded in a third.
A cross from the right by Taylor was met perfectly by the head of the Rovers frontman who guided his header beyond the despairing dive of Oxley to all but wrap up the three points.
To the credit of those in yellow, despite being three goals down, the visitors kept plugging away and it’ll be a night to remember for Harry Phillips who would grab a memorable consolation goal.
The 22-year-old found himself in acres of space before deciding to pull the trigger 30-yards from goal only to see his effort take a massive deflection and loop over Dieng and into the back of the net.
It was a moment the Southend midfielder is unlikely to forget on his first appearance for the first-team and it was the final goal of the evening, though James Coppinger did hit the crossbar late on.
Doncaster’s win was their first in three league matches and pushed them closer to the top six while Southend now must focus on the visit of Lincoln City on Saturday.
Doncaster Rovers XI: Dieng, Halliday, James, Anderson, Sheaf, Sadlier, Whiteman (C), Taylor (Blair 65’), Coppinger, Ennis (Cole 78’), John. Subs Not Used: Jones, Wright, Gomes, Amos, Watters
Blues XI: Oxley, Bwomono, Milligan, Humphrys (Barratt 38’), McLaughlin, Kiernan, Mantom (Hutchinson 65’), Kelman, Demetriou (Goodship 83’), Phillips, White (C). Subs Not Used: Taylor, Rush, Kinali, Clifford
Referee: Darren Drysdale
Assistants: Oliver Bickle & Barry Gordon
Fourth Official: Geoffrey Liddle
Doncaster Rovers: Niall Ennis 24’, Kieran Sadlier 41’, 55’
Southend United: Harry Phillips 70’
Doncaster Rovers: None
Southend United: Mark Milligan 59’
Attendance: 7,063 (180 Away Fans)