Blues fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat against Forest Green Rovers with substitute Jake Young’s goal the difference between the two sides despite a valiant performance from Southend at Roots Hall.
After an even first-half, highlighted by a glorious chance for Blues striker Matt Rush, two Rovers substitutes combined to break the deadlock in the 63rd minute when Young was picked out by Aaron Collins to fire home from 10-yards out.
The visitors had further chances to extend their lead with Jamille Matt hitting the post before Nicky Cadden’s rebound was cleared off the line, as a depleted Southend more than matched their opponents but were unable to find an equaliser that their endeavour had deserved.
After Southend were unable to field a side on Saturday due to a COVID outbreak in the squad on top of Blues’ lengthy injury-list, Mark Molesley was able to muster a patched-up side for the visit of Forest Green Rovers in a first-ever meeting between the two sides.
But even before a ball had been kicked, Southend were dealt another injury blow as Tom Clifford pulled up in the warm-up, meaning Harry Kyprianou had to be drafted into the starting 11 having originally been named on the bench.
Forest Green travelled to Essex off the back of a mammoth trip to Barrow, earning a late point in a 2-2 draw, and they had a good chance early on when Ebou Adams was slid through only for Mark Oxley to get a strong arm to the ball at the feet of the midfielder.
Southend had a couple of half-chances of their own when Matt Rush stole the ball in a dangerous area and didn’t quite see the run of James Olayinka before being shepherd out. Olayinka then won Blues a free-kick 20-yards from goal which Brandon Goodship struck against the wall.
And in a first-half short of chances for either side, Blues arguably should have taken the lead before the break as Elvis Bwomono carried the ball forward and teed it up for Rush who was unmarked 12 yards from goal, but the youngster fired wide.
The miss was a huge let-off for the visitors who went close to punishing Southend with a chance of their own after Nicky Cadden burst down the left. His cross found the head of the imposing Jamille Matt who glanced his header over.
Southend had an early opportunity in the second-half when Olayinka broke free down the left and managed to get a low cross into the box. Goodship was charging in to tap the ball home but Jordan Moore-Taylor beat the striker to it to get it clear.
Kyprianou then found space on the left and whipped a vicious cross which Luke McGee got down to before Rovers hacked it clear, and with Kyprianou out of position Odin Bailey broke and only a last-ditch deflection from John White diverted his shot over the bar.
Some more dogged defending from Southend prevented Dan Sweeney from scoring just before the hour mark as Timothee Dieng put his body on the line to block Sweeney’s shot. From the subsequent corner, Carl Winchester hit a half volley into the turf which bounced just over the crossbar.
Forest Green made two changes by bringing on Aaron Collins and Jake Young and they had an immediate impact as the two combined to open the scoring. Collins deceived Jason Demetriou on the byline before picking out Young who slotted it home.
Southend now had to come from behind but they almost fell further behind when Matt headed a cross from the right against the post before Cadden smacked the rebound towards goal only for White to make a vital block.
As time run down though the pressure on the Forest Green goal began to grow and in the seventh minute of stoppage time Dieng had a great chance to earn a point as he was found unmarked at the far post but his shot was deflected clear as Rovers held on.
Blues XI: Oxley, Bwomono, Hobson, Olayinka, Dieng, Goodship, Egbri, Rush (K Coker 66’), Demetriou (McCormack 74’), Kyprianou, White (C). Subs Not Used: Seaden, Phillips, Chandler, Adejayo
Forest Green Rovers XI: McGee, Wilson (Richardson 71’), Sweeney (Collins 59’), Stokes, Winchester (C) (Whitehouse 77’), Adams, Cadden, Matt, Moore-Taylor, Bailey (Young 59’), Godwin-Malife. Subs Not Used: Thomas, Stevens, March
Referee: Keith Stroud
Assistants: Sam Lewis & Mark Jones
Fourth Official: Garreth Rhodes
Southend United: None
Forest Green Rovers: Jake Young 63’
Southend United: Timothee Dieng 62’, Alan McCormack 88’
Forest Green Rovers: None