Blues boss Kevin Maher said that he felt “the better team won in the end” as Southend scored a 93rd-minute winner to beat King’s Lynn at Roots Hall on Friday night.
The visitors went ahead against the run of play when Harry Phipps’ diving header found the bottom corner midway through the first-half as Southend went into the break 1-0 down.
Maher’s side though responded after the restart and were level three minutes after the break when Matthew Dennis tapped in at the far post to level things.
And there was a controversial finish to the match as Blues were awarded a contentious penalty for a foul on Sam Dalby, with Dalby stepping up to fire in the winner deep into stoppage time.
“I think the better team won in the end,” said the Southend Head Coach following the full-time whistle at Roots Hall.
“I’m delighted for everyone involved in the club and it shows we’re moving in the right direction.
“It’s been a while since that’s happened, winning three games in a row in the league, so I’m delighted. From the first minute, we were on the front foot and the team looking to go win the game.
“It wouldn’t go in first-half. We had chances and balls dropping, but we needed that first one. And when they get one it was good that we didn’t panic.
“[At half-time, I said] just don’t panic. I would have liked to have passed the ball a bit more, but that’s being picky. But don’t panic, keep doing what you’re doing.
“It felt like they were being stretched a bit. To get the one early on in the second-half was important and I felt we deserved the win.”
The key moment in the game came in the 93rd minute when Dalby was challenged by Ross Barrows, with referee Lloyd Wood pointing to the penalty spot.
Tommy Widdrington, King’s Lynn’s manager, was apoplectic at the decision and was sent off for his protests, and Maher had some sympathy for his opposite number.
“I understand that [reaction], he’s going to be frustrated because they’ve come and give him everything and looked as though they were going to get away with a point.
“You’d be frustrated if that was the other way round. Like I said, I thought the best team won and we thoroughly deserved the three points.”
After a long wait, Dalby stepped up and buried the penalty down the middle to secure Blues their third successive win and move them 10 points clear of the National League relegation zone.
It was the second time this season that Dalby has come up with the winner against the Linnets and Maher was full of praise for his number 10 after grabbing his seventh goal of the season.
“I think he’s come on loads as a player and grown in confidence. He looks fitter, looks stronger, is a good size, he can run and he’s getting goals as well now.
“Absolutely, there’s pressure [on the penalty] but in front of a brilliant crowd again tonight, it was a bit like the old days at the end.
“I’ve experienced it and I’m glad the players are beginning to experience what can happen here.”
As well as another vital win for Blues, the home fans got to see three new signings making their debuts for the club as Harry Cardwell and Noor Husin – signed this week – and Leon Davies made their bows in blue.
Cardwell and Davies started the game with Husin coming on the second-half and Maher felt all three of the new boys done well on their first run-outs.
“Leon come in for Jason Demetriou who’s done ever so well, and I thought he done well. He’s got good delivery, but it’s a difficult game when you’re trying to break a team down, it’s always difficult but I thought Leon done well and looked comfortable.
“Cardwell, you can see what he is. He’s a proper centre forward, does a bit of everything. He was winning his headers first-half but it just wouldn’t quite fall for him in the box, but his work set the penalty up where he’s closed the ball down and won the ball back to slide Dalby in.
“I think Noor showed his quality when he come on and that composure on the ball, and you can see the quality that he’s got and is going to bring.”
Blues now have a weekend to recover before a couple more vital games come round next week against Aldershot and Dover as Southend look to put even more distance between themselves and the bottom three in the league.
Despite the feel-good factor feeling like it’s beginning to come back to Roots Hall after three successive wins, Maher isn’t getting too carried away with himself as he looks ahead to next week’s matches.
“I’m not going to get carried away. The fans should enjoy it and go home happy and enjoy their night, but we’ll be back to work in the morning and get ready for Aldershot.
“We know it’s a tough game, it’s a tough few weeks ahead because we’ve got a lot of games coming up and we’re probably going to need everyone involved as well.
“The ones that aren’t playing tonight will train tomorrow and train properly and we’re ready to go.
“It’s a big club and we’ve got to believe it. When I first come, I said I believe in the club and I believe there’ll be nights like this. Last-minute winners are brilliant, and Friday night under the lights has always been a good occasion.
“I believe in the club, I believe in everyone that’s working hard behind the scenes and I think the club is moving in the right direction in a lot of areas.
“Everyone’s pulling in the same direction now and when you do that, big things can happen. Delighted to get the win, we’ll recover tomorrow and go again for Tuesday.”