SOUTHEND United successfully saw off the ‘Beast from the East’ to ensure Saturday’s game got the go ahead - only to be undone by a stronger than expected force from the West Midlands.

The Shrimpers’ ground-staff worked tirelessly to get the weekend’s match on despite the wretched weather.

And they were ably assisted by a loyal group of Southend fans who swept snow off the Roots Hall pitch early on Saturday morning to ensure the match could be played.

However, their efforts ultimately went unrewarded as a second half hat-trick from Erhun Oztumer handed Walsall an unexpected 3-0 victory.

Blues had gone into the contest unbeaten in five games since the arrival of manager Chris Powell.

And the momentum being gathered would have been a major reason behind the extreme battle to get the match on, especially as the Shrimpers’ scheduled clash at Oldham Athletic had been postponed the previous Saturday.

Blues would also have fancied their chances against a Walsall side who had not won on the road in eight games during a wretched run of away results stretching back to November.

But what unfolded was an ugly, scrappy and fairly flat encounter which was decided by two key moments in quick succession at the start of the second half.

The first pivotal incident came when unmarked Shrimpers winger Shayon Harrison volleyed over from close range when the game was still goalless.

And the second saw a low, bobbling effort from Oztumer deceive Blues goalkeeper Mark Oxley to break the deadlock.

Oxley will undoubtedly have been disappointed to be beaten by the awkward shot.

But the Shrimpers shot-stopper has saved his side several points this season and has arguably been their best performer this term.

Oxley was also not helped by the state of the pitch but the goal gifted Walsall the initiative and they never looked back.

Oztumer bagged two more goals to become the fourth player to score a hat-trick against the Shrimpers this season while also condemning the hosts to their heaviest home defeat of the campaign.

The setback was also Powell’s first since arriving at Roots Hall at the end of January and would have acted as something of a reality check for everyone connected with the club.

For, since Powell’s bright start, talk among certain sections had been of a late push for the play-offs.

Such optimism was to be admired, especially after such a miserable few months prior to Powell’s return to Roots Hall.

However, there is still plenty of hard work required to turn Blues into a consistent and serious force at this level and Saturday’s showing showed that.

Yet, one poor performance should not be greeted with huge negativity just as a victory should not cause extreme elation.

But Powell will have learnt valuable lessons against the Saddlers on Saturday and will demand an immediate reaction from his side against Doncaster Rovers this weekend.

In a bid to secure a more successful outcome, the fit-again Michael Kightly – who was selected among the substitutes on Saturday – should come into consideration along with Marc-Antoine Fortune.

The experienced Frenchman scored during an impressive display against high-flying Wigan Athletic but has not started since with Freddie Ladapo taking his place in attack.

However, Powell is certainly not short of attacking options with midfielder Anthony Wordsworth - who came off the bench at the weekend - now also pushing for a recall after recovering from a calf injury which had kept him out since early January.

Powell will this week be seeking ways to rediscover a winning formula which - judging by the manner of Saturday’s setback - may soon include deciding to call the game off the next time the weather takes a turn for the worse!