A CHANGE of competition signalled a change of fortune for Southend United tonight as they brushed aside Dagenham and Redbridge in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Roots Hall.
Paul Sturrock’s side went in to the Essex derby without a win in three games.
But goals from Ryan Cresswell and Britt Assombalonga got Blues back on track and also secured a slot in this Saturday’s third round draw.
Despite the victory, Southend were grateful to some fine saves from goalkeeper Paul Smith.
The first of those came after just 23 seconds when the former Southampton shot-stopper did well to save an instinctive effort from Brian Woodall low down to his left hand side.
After that, Southend were immediately back on top with Assombalonga just failing to make contact with the ball inside the six yard box after Michael Timlin had picked the striker out with a low, left wing cross.
Assombalonga then had a 12 yard shot parried out by Dagenham goalkeeper Chris Lewington before the on loan Watford striker also had a scuffed left footed shot easily cleared off the line by Femi Ilesanmi.
However, Blues were not to be kept out for long and they opened the scoring in the 17th minute, with a well worked goal from Cresswell.
The Southend centre-back headed the ball out to the right wing before charging in to the penalty area and nodding an excellent centre from Kevan Hurst in to the back of the net from close range via the inside of the left post.
But Dagenham almost equalised on the stroke of half-time when the fit again Matt Saunders unleashed a powerful half volley from 25 yards which Smith did superbly well to tip over the crossbar.
Smith looked slightly less convincing at the start of the second half when he bizarrely punched a high attempted clearance on to the roof of the North Bank net.
Yet, after surviving that slight scare, Southend made it 2-0 in the 63rd minute following some comical Dagenham defending.
A sliced clearance from Luke Wilkinson led to the ball rolling past Daggers shot-stopper Chris Lewington and enabled Assombalonga to fire home in to a gaping goal from six yards.
It was the striker’s seventh goal of the season and it was immediately followed by a triple change from Daggers boss John Still as he brought on Sam Williams, Dwight Gayle and Dominic Green.
And it was Green who almost got the visitors back in to the game when his low, left footed shot was well saved by Smith.
Moments later, fellow substitute Gayle sent a flicked header crashing against the underside of the crossbar before Smith, who had his best game for Blues so far, brilliantly parried out a rising 12 yard shot from Williams.
In reply, a David Martin free-kick was then smothered by Lewington before the winger had another effort blocked by the keeper’s feet.
With Martin continuing to cause problems he then had an effort cleared off the line by Ilesanmi before Assombalonga fired off target in the closing stages.