SOUTHEND United let slip a two goal lead to suffer a painful 4-2 defeat at Bristol Rovers this afternoon.

The struggling Shrimpers dominated the first half and led 2-0 at the break with Tom Hopper and Brandon Goodship both on target.

But Rovers – who are bossed by former Blues coach Graham Coughlan – fought back after the break and scored four times without reply to pile more misery on Sol Campbell’s side.

Blues wasted a great early chance to take the lead when Goodship’s cross from the right flank found Stephen McLaughlin at the far post but the winger could only volley over the crossbar from eight yards.

However, the Shrimpers remained on the front foot and broke the deadlock in the 13th minute when another fine right wing cross from Goodship picked out Hopper who made no mistake with an assured first time finish.

Moments later, Blues came close to doubling their lead when Sam Mantom’s right wing corner found Timothee Dieng whose bouncing volley was pushed onto the right post by Rovers goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola.

The visitors continued to attack with Hopper having an angled effort deflected wide of the right post before Southend doubled their lead in the 36th minute with McLaughlin superbly teeing up Goodship who sent a low shot into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

Jason Demetriou then saw a close range effort bravely blocked by Jaakkola in the closing action of a one-sided first half.

However, Rovers improved straight from the kick off at the start of the second half with Tom Nichols being denied by the legs of Blues goalkeeper Nathan Bishop.

But with 48 minutes on the clock, the hosts were back in the game with ex Shrimpers loanee Jonson Clarke-Harris on target from the penalty spot.

The spot-kick was awarded after referee James Oldham harshly adjudged Elvis Bwomono to have brought down Clarke-Harris in the box.

And the striker made no mistake from the spot as he coolly sent his effort into the left hand side of the net with Bishop diving in the opposite direction.

Blues were then forced into making their first change of the afternoon as Stephen Humphrys replaced the injured Hopper.

But Rovers continued to threaten with Liam Sercombe blasting over an excellent opportunity from 12 yards.

However, the hosts were not to be denied an equaliser and they drew back level in the 56th minute when a long ball forward was headed on by Richard Taylor before Ogogo rolled a low finish into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

The Shrimpers responded with a second change in the 63rd minute which saw the fit-again Ethan Hamilton replace Demetriou in the centre of the park.

But Rovers still looked the more dangerous of the teams and took the lead in the 75th minute with Upson slamming an unstoppable 30 yard shot into the top right hand corner of the net.

The home-side extended their lead five minutes later when Tony Craig’s header from Upson’s right wing corner was nodded into the back of the net by Alfie Kilgour from close range.

The shell-shocked Shrimpers replied by making their final change as Emile Acquah took the place of Goodship and the visitors almost netted late on with Humphrys firing inches wide of the right post from long range.

But by then the damage had been done, meaning second from bottom Blues have still triumphed just once in League One this season and sit 11 points from safety with relegation now seemingly a foregone conclusion.