SOUTHEND brought Millwall’s winning streak to an end and also handed the Lions their fourth home league defeat with a 2-0 win at The Den.
Goals in each half from the away side preserved their own unbeaten away run in the league and lifted them out of the relegation places.
Striker David Mooney put Southend ahead in the 37th minute when he rose unmarked in the box to head David Worrall’s cross past Jordan Archer.
Aiden O’Brien had a great chance to put Millwall ahead in the first period but he was denied in a one-on-one against Daniel Bentley, who was superb throughout for Phil Brown’s side.
Millwall lacked an edge up front and it was Southend who doubled their lead on 50 minutes through defender Adam Barrett. After Southend had won a set-piece on the left wing, Michael Timlin swung a dangerous cross into the box and Barrett, again unmarked, powered a header past the exposed Archer.
Neil Harris immediately brought on Lee Gregory with O’Brien pushing wide left but it didn’t have the desired effect in terms of reducing the deficit.
Shane Ferguson and Paris Cowan-Hall came on soon after to provide better service into the box.
And while the home side did create a number of half chances, Southend were comfortable defending deep and trying to hit the hosts on the counter.
Millwall forced a flurry of corners late on but Bentley was solid and Southend were able to relatively comfortably hang on for the three points.
No changes for Millwall
Unsurprisingly Harris opted to stick with the side that had performed so promisingly against Port Vale, with Sid Nelson again left out after he had failed to recover from his rib injury.
But the sharpness that was in evidence at Vale Park was absent in the opening 45 minutes, particularly on the edge of the opposition area.
There were numerous times when an accurate final ball would have given a Millwall attacker a great opportunity to score. The most obvious was near the end of the half when Ed Upson did well to set up Tony Craig to cross, but with Steve Morison free six yards out Craig just couldn’t get the ball in quickly enough and ended up dragging it behind the striker.
There were other occasions when players just didn’t seem on each other’s wavelengths. At one point Jimmy Abdou and Fred Onyedinma had a chance to break but just before Abdou attempted to pass to his winger, Onyedinma looked away and the ball ended up flicking off his heels.
That summed up Millwall’s attacking fortunes in the first half.
Southend more clinical than the Lions
Where Millwall struggled to get the final ball right, and then snatched at chances when they did have them, Southend were the definition of clinical in going 2-0 ahead.
Mooney was only a few yards out when he beat Archer but it still needed finishing and the quality of Worrall’s little dinked cross set him up perfectly.
The sharpness that was absent up front was also missing at the back as just before that Millwall had allowed a throw into the box to bounce before Shaun Williams cleared.
In the lead-up to Southend’s second goal the away side played a free-kick short before the ball found its way back to captain Timlin. The tactic worked because when the midfielder drove in the cross the Lions’ defence had taken a step forward to leave Barrett in space in the box. Again, he took his chance when it came, planting a header past Archer who could do little to keep it out.
It was the same story again at the other end again as O’Brien had arguably his side’s best chance to get back into it, but the ball just didn’t fall quite right for him and Bentley was able to save.
Fred off form
The attacker was excellent in August when his side were going through a bad spell. But he hasn’t been as effective over the last number of weeks and sometimes he looks like he’s trying just a little too hard.
Maybe a more experienced winger going through a difficult spell in the game would revert to basics and cross rather than try to beat his direct opponent. But Onyedinma is just 18 years old and that kind of nous will come in time.
Cowan-Hall came on for the winger in the second half and Ferguson also added pace from deep from left-back.
Craig didn’t look altogether comfortable there, especially when he had the chance to deliver the ball into the box. Although there was a totally different shape to the game when Ferguson came on, he is much more suited to that role joining the attack from deep.
But this was a missed opportunity for Millwall with another home game to come next Saturday against Rochdale, and hugely frustrating after such an encouraging last week.