Zak Dearnley's late strike heaped more heartache on Southend United as they lost 2-1 to Oldham Athletic at Roots Hall.
After a cagey first-half short of clear chances for either side, the visitors took the lead four minutes after the restart when Bobby Grant tapped in from close range after getting on the end of a Davis Keillor-Dunn cross across the face of goal.
Southend rode their luck a little as Conor McAleny struck the foot of the post before forcing a save out of Mark Oxley moments later, but Blues looked to have made Oldham rue those missed chances as Tom Clifford curled a beautiful free-kick beyond Ian Lawlor to level it up.
Blues though would be caught late on after losing the ball in the middle of the pitch, allowing Oldham to launch into a counter-attack which ended with Dearnley rounding Mark Oxley and sliding in the winner for the visitors.
Blues boss Mark Molesley had kept faith with the side that lost at Prenton Park on Saturday as he named an unchanged line-up against The Latics with Southend still looking for their first win of the season.
Oldham sat just three points above Southend in the table coming into tonight and travelled without their manager, Harry Kewell, who’d tested positive for coronavirus. Alan Maybury stepped in for the absent Australian and he made six changes to the side that lost to Port Vale on Saturday.
With both sides short of form, it was understandably a cagey affair in the first-half with Jason Demetriou slashing an effort well wide before Dylan Fage and Kyle Jameson had efforts fly off target for the visitors.
James Olayinka was next to fire off target before Southend had yet another penalty decision go against them as Ashley Nathaniel-George found space in the box and appeared to be brought down by Brice Ntambwe as he got his shot away.
That was now five penalty shouts in three games, none of which had gone the way of Molesley’s side, but Blues continued to press ahead and had further chances fall to Olayinka, Elvis Bwomono and Kyle Taylor all come and go as it remained goalless at the interval.
Shortly after the restart though, Oldham would break the deadlock as Bobby Grant put the visitors in front. Davis Keillor-Dunn found enough space on the left to flash a cross across the face of goal, finding the unmarked Grant who tapped in the opener.
Molesley immediately switched things up by bringing on Kazaiah Sterling for Emile Acquah but it was the visitors who almost grabbed a second goal as Conor McAleny had two chances in the space of a minute come and go.
The Oldham frontman was unlucky to see a low drive from outside the box strike the post and bounce clear. McAleny then found space inside the area to fire at Mark Oxley, forcing a reaction save out of the Southend stopper.
With a little over a quarter of an hour remaining, Southend had a chance to equalise when Terrell Egbri was brought down by Carl Piergianni on the edge of the penalty box, giving Blues a free-kick in dangerous territory.
Tom Clifford and Kyle Taylor stood over the set-piece with the former taking the chance with perfection as Clifford curled the ball over the wall and into the back off the net, kissing the inside of the post on the way through, for his first senior goal for Southend.
The left-back’s superb strike had Southend’s tails up as they searched for a winner and they went within millimetres of scoring again from another free-kick, this time with Brandon Goodship smacking the crossbar from 20-yards out.
Egbri then had a chance of his own that needed Ian Lawlor to parry his shot wide for a corner before Oldham inflicted the dagger blow to Blues in the final seconds of normal time as The Latics nicked the win on the counter-attack with Zak Dearnley scoring late on.
After losing the ball in the middle of the park, Oldham put Dearnley through with a defence-splitting pass allowing Dearnley to round Oxley and score into an empty net to secure the visitors all three points.
Blues XI: Oxley, Bwomono, Olayinka (Hobson 83’), Dieng, Egbri, Clifford, Acquah (Sterling 54’), Nathaniel-George, Demetriou (C), Lennon (Goodship 71’), K Taylor. Subs Not Used: Seaden, Phillips, Rush, R Taylor
Oldham Athletic XI: Lawlor, Clarke, Borthwick-Jackson, Piergianni (C), Whelan, Keillor-Dunn (Dearnley 69’), Grant, Fage (Bahamboula 82’), Jameson, Ntambwe, McAleny. Subs Not Used: Bilboe, Rowe, Barnett, McCalmont, Hamer
Referee: Christopher Sarginson
Assistants: Gregory Read & Adrian Tranter
Fourth Official: David Rock
Southend United: Tom Clifford 76’
Oldham Athletic: Bobby Grant 49’, Zak Dearnley 89’
Southend United: None
Oldham Athletic: Carl Piergianni 74’