Southend United fell to a 2-1 defeat to Maidenhead United after the Magpies came from behind to beat Blues at York Road.
After a goalless first half, Tom Clifford broke the deadlock with a superb strike just after the hour mark from inside the box before Will De Havilland equalised for the hosts, heading in Charlee Adams’ free-kick.
Maidenhead’s winner would come in controversial circumstances after a debatable free-kick was given to the home side for an apparent foul by Ollie Kensdale which they would take full advantage of with Ryan Upward bundling in what turned out to be the winner.
In the aftermath, Kevin Maher was shown a yellow card for his protests while James Dunne’s punishment was far worse as he was shown a straight red card for his comments to the referee as Southend came away from Maidenhead without any points.
It wouldn’t have been the way that Will Atkinson would have wanted to mark his 200th Southend United appearance, with the midfielder being one of two changes from Saturday’s win against Altrincham, alongside James Dunne who came in for Nathan Ralph and Noor Husin.
Maidenhead boasted three ex-Blues in their starting line-up, two of which had good chances to give the home side an early lead with both Kane Ferdinand and Emile Acquah seeing headed efforts from corners stopped by the commanding Steve Arnold in the Southend net.
The visitors, who were superbly backed again by over 800 travelling fans, threatened when a corner of their own came out to Harrison Neal who let fly from 35 yards only for his effort to whistle past Nathan Ashmore’s left-hand post with the goalkeeper left motionless.
Ashmore was arguably the busier of the two goalkeepers in the first half and needed to have his wits about him to stop Tom Clifford from sneaking one in at the near post before pulling off a top-drawer save to prevent Matt Dennis from heading in, brilliantly springing to his right to claw the ball away.
Dennis was looking dangerous for Southend and went close again with a header that flew off target before seeing a low strike from inside the box well held by Ashmore who continued to thwart the Norwich City loanee.
Maidenhead though grew into the contest and were the width of the post away from taking the lead before the interval when Shawn McCoulsky – the third ex-Southend man in the starting line-up – nipped in and lifted an effort over Arnold which thankfully for Blues bounced off the post and away.
It was a scrappy start to the second half for both sides as chances were at a premium after the restart, but a moment of quality from Southend broke the deadlock as they took the lead in the 63rd minute as Clifford scored the game’s opening goal.
After Atkinson broke away down the right, the midfielder fizzed a ball across the face of goal that came out to the Blues full-back just inside the box. Clifford took one touch before thundering his shot beyond Ashmore to put the visitors in front.
Southend were worth their lead on the balance of play, but the home side responded well to the setback, and after going close through McCoulsky the Magpies would equalise when Will De Havilland headed in Charlee Adams’ free-kick to bring the two sides level.
Alan Devonshire’s side now had their tails up and would complete the turnaround with seven minutes remaining, in controversial fashion as Ryan Upward bundled the ball home from close range following a contentious decision by referee Daniel Middleton.
The official awarded Maidenhead a questionable free-kick for a foul by Ollie Kensdale, which the Magpies ultimately capitalised on, much to the dismay of Kevin Maher who received a yellow card for his protests before Dunne was shown a straight red card for something he said in the aftermath.
Blues down to 10 men were unable to carve out an equaliser as they suffered just their second league defeat in 2022 to remain in 12th position in the National League table ahead of a trip to Yeovil on Saturday.
Maidenhead United XI: Ashmore, Wells, de Havilland, Ferdinand, Sheckleford, Smith (Smile 64’), Acquah (Blissett 72’), Upward, McCoulsky (Kelly 71’), Massey (C), Adams. Subs Not Used: Parry, Donnellan
Blues XI: Arnold, Hobson, Bridge (Powell 84’), Dunne, Dalby, Clifford, Atkinson (C), Neal, Davies, Dennis, Kensdale. Subs Not Used: Gard, Demetriou, Wood, Davis
Referee: Daniel Middleton
Assistants: Jonathan Bolland & Daniel Todd
Fourth Official: Nicholas Metcalfe
Maidenhead United: Will De Havilland 72’, Ryan Upward 83’
Southend United: Tom Clifford 63’
Maidenhead United: George Wells 80’
Southend United: Ollie Kensdale 20’
Maidenhead United: None
Southend United: James Dunne 85’