Ruben Rodrigues’ hat-trick condemned Blues to their third straight league defeat as they lost 3-0 to Notts County at Roots Hall.
The Notts midfielder opened the scoring in the 19th minute with a well-taken volley from a Harry Arter free-kick before doubling the visitor’s lead just after the hour mark, stroking the ball home from a Jayden Richardson cut-back.
Southend had a great chance to get back into the game when Callum Powell won Blues a penalty, but the spot-kick from Sam Dalby was saved by Vitezslav Jaros before Rodrigues completed his hat-trick by looping a bouncing ball beyond Steve Arnold to seal the win.
Blues had returned to Roots Hall hoping to bounce back following successive defeats on the road at Yeovil and Maidenhead and ahead of the visit of Notts, Kevin Maher made three changes to his side to face the promotion chasers.
Jason Demetriou captained the side with Noor Husin coming straight back into the starting line-up after returning from international duty. The third change was QPR-loanee Joe Gubbins who had a good chance to open the scoring with a header 12 minutes in.
It was a bright start from Southend who’d already had one long-range effort from Sam Dalby sting the palms of goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros before Dalby teed up Will Atkinson who ran onto a ball on the edge of the box and whistled a first-time shot just over the bar.
Notts had travelled down looking for a third win from their last four to cement their place in the play-off places and, despite being second best early on at Roots Hall, the Magpies went ahead in the 19th minute will a well-worked free-kick routine that was finished off by Ruben Rodrigues.
Blues initially responded well to the setback and went close a minute later with Neal testing the gloves of Jaros, while Tom Clifford will feel he should have done better with a glancing header that failed to test the County goal as the visitors went into the break in front.
Southend had a couple of opportunities to level things up after the restart with Shaun Hobson seeing his header tipped over the crossbar by Jaros. A few minutes later, Atkinson and Matt Dennis both had efforts charged down in a goalmouth scramble.
County though aren’t in the play-off places for nothing and showed their clinical edge by doubling their advantage with their first chance of the second half as Rodrigues got his second. Jayden Richardson laid the ball back to Rodrigues and he calmly stroked the ball home to make it two.
The size of the task now facing Maher’s side was sizeable but they had a great chance to get back into the match from the penalty spot after sub Callum Powell was brought down by Alex Lacey in the box. Dalby stepped up only to see his penalty saved by Jaros who sprung right to push it away.
Southend were unable to recover from that point on and their fate was sealed when Rodrigues completed his hat-trick with 10 minutes remaining. After seeing his earlier effort blocked in the box, the midfielder looped the rebound beyond a motionless Arnold to seal the win.
Victory for Notts was their third win from their last four and put further daylight between themselves and the chasers for the play-off spots below, while Blues remained in 13th following a third straight defeat ahead of a trip to league leaders Stockport next weekend.
Blues XI: Arnold, Hobson, Dalby, Clifford, Gubbins, Atkinson (Bridge 62’), Neal, Clark, Demetriou (C), Dennis (Powell 62’), Husin. Subs Not Used: Adeng Ndi, Gard, Davies
Notts County XI: Jaros, Rawlinson, Wootton (C), Kelly-Evans, Vincent (O’Brien 63’), Palmer, Rodrigues (Sam 85’), Arter (Brunt 74’), Chicksen, Lacey, Richardson. Subs Not Used: Nemane, Graham
Referee: Steven Copeland
Assistants: Christopher Reeson & Andrew Gray
Fourth Official: Harry Scott
Southend United: None
Notts County: Ruben Rodrigues 19’, 61’, 80’
Southend United: Jason Demetriou 44’
Notts County: Alex Lacey 65’, Jim O’Brien 90’
Attendance: 6,338 (536 Away)