Stevenage fell to a 2-0 defeat at Southend United after a disappointing afternoon at Roots Hall.
First half goals from Myles Weston and Ben Coker did the damage for the Shrimpers, who were on top for most of the game but had to thank ‘keeper Daniel Bentley for keeping Boro out with a couple of outstanding saves.
Graham Westley made just one change from his midweek team with Simon Walton replacing Andy Bond in midfield for his competitive debut.
In a lively start for Southend both Shaquile Coulthirst and Ryan Leonard went close in the opening moments before their pressure told with the opening goal with just 10 minutes on the clock. A long ball forward from Bentley somehow found its way through to Myles Weston and the midfielder calmly slotted home first time past Beasant.
Straight from the kick-off Boro flooded forwarded, with Harry Worley going down in the Shrimpers area after a clash of heads. It was to be his last action of the game with the centre-back replaced shortly afterwards by Bond. He partnered Walton in the middle of the park, Lee moved to right-back with Ashton shuffling alongside Wells.
Stevenage’s first chance of the game came on 20 minutes through Charles. The striker picked up the ball on the edge of the area and tried a curler in the top corner but his effort was high and wide. The visitors were to rue not making that count as Southend promptly doubled their lead.
Quite how left-back Ben Coker found himself on the edge of the ‘D’ after a diagonal run from the flank is unclear but his neat right-footed finish past Beasant was perfect and nestled in the bottom corner, as the hosts took control.
Two goals down Boro rallied and certainly enjoyed the best of the remaining 25 minutes of the half. Wells saw a header across goal cleared before Bentley came to Southend’s rescue, denying Marriott from close range after Lee had launched a long-throw into the box.
Dembele fired wide from the edge of the area and Walton saw a shot over as the visitors continued to create chances, with Pett, Marriott and Charles finally finding some joy from the Southend defence.
As the game entered four minutes of injury time Bentley again thwarted Graham Westley’s men, coming out to block Whelpdale’s fierce drive from an angle after good work by Marriott. It looked like being one of those days.
The winger again went close at the start of the second half with an effort that was always rising and it looked like Boro would continue to press on. However after a fairly even 15 minutes it was Southend who found another gear on the hour, keeping Sam Beasant and his defence on their toes with foray after foray forward.
Twice the former Woking ‘keeper saved from Barry Corr with Kevan Hurst, Coulthirst and Weston all seeing shots fly high or wide away from Stevenage’s goal.
Boro kept battling away and had some encouraging moments but final passes were lacking and corners failed to really trouble the Southend defence. Only subs Deacon and Bond found themselves with a sight of goal, but both efforts found their way into the stands, giving the travelling 557 fans little to cheer.
Not many teams will take points away from Roots Hall this season as Phil Brown’s men look to better last year’s playoff campaign with a real push for automatic promotion. However, despite being outplayed for much of this game, Stevenage will be hoping to respond with a much brighter performance when they travel to Plymouth on Tuesday evening.
Southend: Bentley, White, Bolger, Prosser, Coker, Hurst (Worrall 73), Weston, Leonard, Clifford, Coulthirst, Corr
Subs not used: Smith, Ibenfeldt, Thompson, Barnard, Payne, Layne
Stevenage: Beasant, Ashton, Worley (Bond 15), Wells, Dembele (Okimo 73), Whelpdale, Lee, Walton, Pett (Deacon 58), Charles, Marriott
Subs not used: Day, Calcutt, Johnson
Referee: Christopher Sarginson
Attendance: 5,397 (557 visiting)