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Southend United 1, AFC Wimbledon 3
DOZENS of Southend United supporters ensured tonight’s game with AFC Wimbledon was given the go ahead after helping to sweep snow off the Roots Hall pitch.
But so poor was Blues’ performance in suffering a disappointing 3-1 defeat against the Dons, they must now be wishing they had not have bothered.
The fans’ efforts initially seem to be rewarded when Sean Clohessy fired the hosts in front from the penalty spot.
However, the visitors hit back with a trio of strikes to secure their first ever victory after Southend who had won the previous four games between the two sides.
The latest meeting of the teams started slowly and Blues swapped their 4-5-1 formation to a 4-4-inside the opening 15 minutes with Ryan Leonard moving on to the left flank and Bilel Mohsni pushing further forward to partner Britt Assombalonga in attack.
But, despite the change of system, it was AFC Wimbledon who continued to enjoy more possession without converting that in to clear cut goalscoring chances.
That made for quite a dull opening 29 minutes, until the game suddenly exploded in to life with two goals in the space of three minutes.
Blues hit the back of the net first when Pim Balkestein handled a right wing corner from Kevan Hurst and referee Dean Whitestone immediately pointed to the penalty spot.
That enabled stand in captain Clohessy to step forward and fire home for the second game in succession as his 12 yard shot flew in to the right hand side of the net, just past the despairing dive of Dons goalkeeper John Sullivan.
The goal was Southend’s first in the opening 45 minutes of a home league game since Assombalonga netted against Dagenham & Redbridge in September.
However, Dons were back level just three minutes later when Balkestein made amends for giving away the penalty when his close range header from Sammy Moore’s left wing corner was tipped in to the top left hand corner of the net by Southend goalkeeper Paul Smith.
In reply, Hurst then sent a low left footed shot straight at Sullivan from just inside the penalty area but the Gulls also meant in front just before the break when substitute Jack Midson teed up Kevin Sainte-Luce and his low shot was saved by the legs of Smith.
In a bid to improve at the break, boss Paul Sturrock made his first change of the game with Neil Harris coming on to replace Leonard.
But it was the Dons who started the second period strongly and took the lead in the 47th minute when Gary Alexander’s right wing cross picked out Midson at the near post and the former Southend loanee headed in to the back of the North Bank net from six yards.
AFC Wimbledon should then have made it 3-1 in the 55th minute when Sainte-Luce shrugged off Anthony Straker to race clean through on goal but the winger could only drag a 12 yard shot wide of the left post.
Blues boss Sturrock attempted to make the most of the left by bringing on Barry Corr for Mickey Spillane in the 64th minute but the Dons made a double change of their own three minutes later with Luke Moore and Jesse Darko entering the action.
And it was Wimbledon’s substitutes who made an immediate impression as Darko controlled Meades’ right wing cross and teed up Moore who, with his first touch, guided a low, left footed shot in to the bottom right hand corner of the net from 20 yards.
After that, Blues made their third and final change with John Spicer coming on for Straker but they were unable to get back in to the game as their play-off hopes suffered a huge and unexpected blow.