Southend United’s survival hopes were dealt a blow as they lost 2-0 to Tranmere Rovers at Roots Hall with first-half goals from Paul Lewis and George Ray the difference between the two sides.
Lewis put the visitors in front after just eight minutes when he converted a low ball into the box from Kaiyne Woolery, seeing his first-time effort clip the underside of the crossbar on its way through to the opening goal of the evening.
The Rovers midfielder had the ball in the back of the net again minutes later, but it was ruled out for offside, but there was no flag to save Blues from going further behind when George Ray nodded in from close range to secure the victory.
Defeat for Southend leaves them in the bottom two in League Two, while Tranmere made amends for their home defeat to Crawley on at the weekend by closing the gap to the automatic promotion places to one point.
The first of two successive home games this week, it was far from an ideal night for Mark Molesley’s side who had been left frustrated by their 0-0 draw against Oldham at the weekend, in a game which Blues had plenty of chances to win it.
Molesley made three changes from that trip to Boundary Park as Shaun Hobson, Kyle Taylor and the injured Simeon Akinola made way for Elvis Bwomono, Jason Demetriou and Ricky Holmes, and it was Holmes had the game’s first effort as he tried lobbing Scott Davies two minutes in.
Southend threatened again a few moments later when Reeco Hackett-Fairchild was picked out by a quick pass forward by Tyler Cordner. The winger broke down the right before cutting onto his left, but his low shot was saved by Davies before the visitors scrambled it clear.
Tranmere, who had a date at Wembley to look forward to this Sunday in the Papa John’s Trophy Final, were looking sharp and having some joy down the right, and it was from there where the opening goal came from as Paul Lewis put the visitors in front early on.
Some quick work from Rovers allowed Kaiyne Woolery to be free down the right, with his low cross picking out Lewis whose first-time effort kissed the underside of the crossbar on its way through to open the scoring after just eight minutes.
Rovers carried that momentum with them for the rest of the first-half and after Lewis had a second goal ruled out for offside, Keith Hill’s side doubled their advantage through George Ray as Blues’ troubles deepened.
Ray had moments earlier seen a header blocked from a Lian Feeney corner. Tranmere recycled the ball immediately and Feeney again picked out the towering Ray whose flicked header deceived a motionless James Montgomery to increase their lead to two.
Blues needed a response and Mark Molesley made a double change at the break with Sam Hart and Brandon Goodship coming on, and Goodship was inches away from getting on the end of a scuffed Nathan Ferguson shot that agonisingly went across the face of goal without being converted.
It was only a brief respite for Southend though as Tranmere retook control of the game and were happy to play it around without creating any further chances on goal, clearly happy with their evening’s work up to that point.
The home side did manage to create one clear chance late on when Kyle Taylor got on the end of a deflected Elvis Bwomono effort, but he sliced his shot harmlessly over, as Tranmere comfortably saw out time to pick up three points.
Blues XI: Montgomery, Bwomono, Cordner, Dieng, Clifford (Hart 46’), Hackett-Fairchild, Acquah (Goodship 46’), Demetriou (Taylor 69’), Holmes (Nathaniel-George 69’), Ferguson (McCormack 88’), White (C). Subs Not Used: Seaden, Hobson
Tranmere Rovers XI: Davies, O’Connor, Morris (Nugent 83’), Spearing, Woolery, Macdonald (Blackett-Taylor 90+3’), Feeney, Ray, Lewis, Clarke, Lloyd (Ridehalgh 87’). Subs Not Used: Murphy, Monthe, Crawford, Kirby
Referee: Tim Robinson
Assistants: Nigel Lugg & Robert Hyde
Fourth Official: George Byrne
Southend United: None
Tranmere Rovers: Paul Lewis 8’, George Ray 24’
Southend United: John White 55’, Reeco Hackett-Fairchild 86’
Tranmere Rovers: None