SOUTHEND United slumped to a depressing 4-0 defeat against Chesterfield during another painful afternoon at Roots Hall.

The setback saw the sub-standard Shrimpers slip to 20th in the National League standings, just above the drop zone on goal difference.

But the miserable match will long be remembered for the protesting Blues fans who came onto the pitch to vent their fury against chairman Ron Martin and halted play for more than five minutes in the second half.

In stark contrast, the game started slowly before promotion chasing Chesterfield opened the scoring in the 19th minute, with Danny Rowe on target.

Rowe, who scored at Roots Hall for Bradford City last season, was again on target against the Shrimpers as he sent a low 20 yard shot into the bottom left hand corner of the net.

The goal came just seconds before Blues’ fans protests against club chairman Martin with sections of the Roots Hall faithful holding up red cards to make their feelings clear.

The Shrimpers soon came close to drawing back level with the recalled Benji Kimpioka battling his way past visiting goalkeeper Scott Loach, only for Laurence Maguire to get back to stop the striker scoring with a well-timed challenge.

In reply, Rowe soon jinked his way past the Southend defence before strangely delaying to shoot but the striker was not to be denied for long as he doubled Chesterfield’s lead in the 40th minute.

The striker turned sharply after a half cleared right wing corner and scored with a low, left footed shot from 12 yards.

Blues hit back with Nathan Ferguson firing over from just inside the penalty area before play switched back to the other end of the field with Kabonga Tshimanaga firing wide of the right post when well placed.

In a bid to improve, Blues boss Phil Brown made a double change at the break with Rhys Murphy taking the place of Hamzad Kargbo and Terrell Egbri coming on for Kimpioka.

Immediately after the changes, Murphy fired an intelligent James Dunne free-kick wide of the left post but, after surviving the scare, Chesterfield made it 3-0 with a well-worked goal.

Rowe was part of the build up this time around as his low pass down the right hand side played in Jeff King whose fine right wing cross was fired home at the far post by Saidou Khan.

The Shrimpers made their third change in the 61st minute with Sam Dalby replacing Will Atkinson.

But Chesterfield remained on top and made it 4-0 in the 73rd minute, with Rowe completing his hat-trick from the penalty spot.

Referee Scott Tallis pointed to the spot after Nathan Ralph brought Tshimanga in the box.

And Rowe made no mistake from 12 yards, slamming a powerful effort into the centre of the goal.

However the Spireites’ fourth goal sparked protests from the Shrimpers faithful, with around 100 fans coming onto the pitch to protest against Martin.

The supporters made their way across to the dug-outs leading referee Tallis to lead both teams off the pitch for more than five minutes.

But once play resumed Chesterfield continued to threaten with both Laurence Maguire and King going close to scoring during 14 minutes of stoppage time before fans also came onto the pitch at the final whistle to protest.