Southend United grabbed a huge three points against title-chasing Forest Green as goals from Shaun Hobson, Timothee Dieng and Nathan Ferguson earnt Blues a 3-1 win at the Innocent New Lawn.
On their first-ever visit to Nailsworth, Southend went in front midway through the first-half when Hobson’s thunderous volley was too powerful for goalkeeper Lewis Thomas.
The hosts made a triple change at the break, but it didn’t pan out the way they wanted as Dieng extended Blues’ lead by curling the ball beyond a motionless Thomas.
Mark Molesley’s side then wrapped up a sensational win in sensational fashion when Ferguson fired the ball into the top corner from at least 40-yards out for Southend’s third.
The hosts would grab a consolation goal late on as Jamille Matt bundled home from close range but it didn’t matter with the win enough to lift Southend back out of the relegation zone.
Victory against Forest Green, who came into tonight second in the table, was the perfect start to what appeared to be a tough week for Blues on paper as they were set to face three of the league’s top seven in the space of seven days.
The Southend United boss Mark Molesley made two changes from the side that heartbreakingly lost 1-0 to Bolton on Saturday, with Kyle Taylor coming in for Jason Demetriou and Emile Acquah replacing Ashley Nathaniel-George.
Forest Green came into tonight off the back of four wins from their last five and knew that another win tonight would send them to the League Two summit, and it was a former Blues player that had the evening’s first sight of goal as Isaac Hutchinson whipped a free-kick narrowly over.
Despite the disappointment of Saturday, Southend on the road had been a tougher nut to crack with a draw at Cambridge and a win at Newport in their last two trips and they went close to opening the scoring when Reeco Hackett-Fairchild’s shot was deflected just off target.
Blues though would break the deadlock in the 20th minute when Shaun Hobson scored a spectacular volley to put Southend in front. Taylor’s free-kick from the right was flicked on towards the centre-half who couldn’t have asked for a better connection with his volley that flew past Lewis Thomas.
The goal had rocked the home side and Blues tried to hammer home their early advantage and went close to a second when Hackett-Fairchild’s second attempt at a cross from the right found the run of Acquah, whose glancing header went narrowly wide of Thomas’ right-hand post.
Southend continued to look the more threatening in the final third and went close again when Tom Clifford’s first-time cross picked out John White who volleyed just wide, moments before Forest Green had an Odin Bailey effort tipped over the bar by Mark Oxley.
Clearly not impressed by their first-half display, Rovers manager Mark Cooper made a triple change at the break with Jayden Richardson, Aaron Collins and top-scorer Jamille Matt all being brought on but it didn’t have the desired effect as Blues went and doubled their lead.
Some neat footwork from Simeon Akinola allowed the striker to charge into the box. His initial shot was blocked but Akinola prodded the rebound through to Timothee Dieng who curled the ball delightfully into the far corner to put Southend two to the good.
Southend had been clinical so far, scoring with both of their two shots on target, and Molesley’s side were in absolute dreamland when Nathan Ferguson thundered a third in for Blues with 20 minutes remaining in Nailsworth.
After Clifford’s free-kick was cleared and Rovers tried to counter-attack, Ferguson stopped the run dead in its tracks before deciding to take aim from 40-yards and firing an unstoppable effort into the top corner to put Blues on course for a huge three points.
Forest Green didn’t lie down for Blues as they did manage to grab one back with four minutes of normal time remaining as Matt scored his third in as many games, bundling the ball beyond Oxley from close range, but it was Southend’s night as they secured a memorable win.
Forest Green Rovers XI: Thomas, Stokes (C) (Richardson 46’), Cargill, Hutchinson (Collins 46’), Adams, Cadden, Moore-Taylor, Bailey (Young 84’), Whitehouse (Wagstaff 71’), Godwin-Malife, Davison (Matt 46’). Subs Not Used: McGee, Bernard
Blues XI: Oxley, Bwomono, Hobson, Dieng, Akinola (Goodship 87’), Clifford, Hackett-Fairchild (Holmes 87’), Acquah (Nathaniel-George 80’), K Taylor (McCormack 71’), Ferguson (Demetriou 87’), White (C). Subs Not Used: Seaden, Cordner
Referee: Lee Swabey
Assistants: John Flynn & Grant Taylor
Fourth Official: Dean Treleaven
Forest Green Rovers: Jamille Matt 86’
Southend United: Shaun Hobson 20’, Timothee Dieng 55’, Nathan Ferguson 70’
Forest Green Rovers: Jordan Moore-Taylor 35’, Scott Wagstaff 82’
Southend United: Shaun Hobson 51’, Elvis Bwomono 67’