Shaun Miller's late strike for Bolton Wanderers condemned Blues to a narrow 1-0 defeat against the Trotters at Roots Hall.
After a goalless first 45 minutes in which Bolton had looked like the more likely to score, Southend responded well in the second-half and had looked the better of the two sides before Miller took advantage of an error at the back by Blues.
Antoni Sarcevic’s strike looped up into the air but, in the opinion of the linesman, hadn’t left the field of play. As it came down it clipped the crossbar, falling to Miller who had the simple task of scoring from close range for what turned out to be the winner.
It was a frustrating result for Southend who’d picked up four points from their last two away games against sides chasing promotion, but they were unable to prevent Bolton from picking up a fourth win in their last five games.
Having fought their way out of the relegation zone thanks to a 0-0 draw last weekend at league leaders Cambridge, Southend had been looking for another positive result this afternoon against in-form Bolton Wanderers to try and put daylight between themselves and the bottom two.
Blues boss Mark Molesley made two changes from the stalemate at the Abbey Stadium with Reeco Hackett-Fairchild and Jason Demetriou coming in, while the visitors made just the one change from their win at Mansfield with Nathan Delfouneso coming into the starting line-up.
In the early stages at a sunny Roots Hall, Wanderers looked the more threatening of the two sides and moments after Oladapo Afolayan shot narrowly wide, Marcus Maddison saw a shot fumbled by Mark Oxley only for Eoin Doyle to put the rebound over the crossbar from close range.
Southend’s first shot in anger came from Ashley Nathaniel-George who dragged a shot harmlessly wide eight minutes in, and arguably Blues’ best chance of the half came when Hackett-Fairchild crossed from the left, finding the head of Elvis Bwomono whose flicked header went over.
It was a surprise to see Bwomono so far forward for that chance, but he made an even bigger impact in more conventional means right on half-time. A corner from the visitors fell to Doyle who fired across goal, beating Oxley, but not Bwomono who’d brilliantly recovered to clear off the line.
Blues began the second-half brightly and had a couple of half-chances early after the restart with Simeon Akinola seeing an effort from outside the box blocked before the rebound fell to Nathan Ferguson whose effort too was blocked by a Bolton defender.
Hackett-Fairchild then almost picked out the run of Akinola at the far post with his right-wing cross evading the Blues striker, before the visitors went to their bench for the first time in the afternoon making a triple change with Antoni Sarcevic, Lloyd Isgrove and Arthur Gnahoua coming on.
Southend soon followed that up with their first change as Molesley gave new signing Ricky Holmes his debut and the former Blues youngster was immediately involved in the thick of the action, getting into dangerous positions in the Bolton box without creating a clear chance.
With a little over 10 minutes remaining and the game still goalless, the Blues boss threw on another striker in the form of Emile Acquah to try and force a winner but it was the visitors that would make the breakthrough in fortuitous circumstances with Shaun Miller scoring.
After Sarcevic’s effort had looped high into the Essex sky, it appeared the ball had gone over the line for a goal kick, but instead it came back down and off the face of Oxley’s crossbar who didn’t deal with the dropping ball allowing Miller to fire in from close range.
It was about as fortunate a goal as you’re likely to see and a bitter blow for Blues who’d been the better side in the second-half, but they now needed to find an equaliser and they went close with four minutes remaining when Emile Acquah headed over from a free-kick.
Five minutes of added on time were shown and Southend had a couple of corner kick chances to try and nick a point, but they were unable to convert from the set-pieces as Bolton picked up a fourth win in five.
Blues XI: Oxley, Bwomono, Hobson, Dieng, Akinola, Clifford (Hart 78’), Hackett-Fairchild (Holmes 67’), Nathaniel-George, Demetriou (K Taylor 86’), Ferguson (Acquah 78’), White (C). Subs Not Used: Seaden, McCormack, Cordner
Bolton Wanderers XI: Gilks, Jones, Williams, Almeida Santos, Delfouneso (Gnahoua 63’), Doyle (C) (Miller 75’), Maddison (Isgrove 63’), Baptiste, John, Lee, Afolayan (Sarcevic 63’). Subs Not Used: Tutte, Thomason, Jackson
Referee: Declan Bourne
Assistants: Paul Lister & Paul Kelly
Fourth Official: Anthony Da Costa
Southend United: None
Bolton Wanderers: Shaun Miller 82’
Southend United: Nathan Ferguson 32’, Elvis Bwomono 83’
Bolton Wanderers: MJ Williams 75’, Declan John 85’