MILLWALL’S four-game unbeaten run in League One came to an end as they lost 3-1 to Southend at Roots Hall on Saturday.
It was Southend’s first home win in the league since March, and only their second of the season as they produced a passionate performance in front of a vociferous home crowd.
It was no more than Southend deserved as they found opponents who produced a ragged performance without any real attacking cohesion.
Mahlon Romeo had the game's first chance when he burst into the box but Mark Oxley saved his low drive.
Dave Mooney put Southend ahead from close range in the sixth minute before Calum Butcher saw a shot in the box blocked by Adam Barrett.
Aiden O’Brien equalised for Millwall in the 33rd minute, before six minutes later Neil Harris replaced Joe Martin with Lee Gregory, with the defender walking a defensive tightrope having picked up a booking for a foul on Jermaine McGlashan.
Southend went back in front in the 51st minute when Stephen McLaughlin found the top corner with a half-volley from the edge of the box.
And substitute Luke O’Neill made the points safe when he scored Southend’s third three minutes from time.
Southend had taken just 17 points from the last 72 available in League One. They last won at home in the league seven months ago when they beat Sheffield United, who oddly enough were the only side they had defeated in the league in 17 fixtures.
Their summer transfer strategy produced an odd patchwork. One signing, Ryan Inniss, was on the bench after being released from jail this week. There was no sign of former Newcastle striker, Nile Ranger, who has only played 24 minutes of competitive football since November 2014. Anton Ferdinand wasn’t fit enough to be included.
Lions boss Harris gave Butcher his full debut, with Ben Thompson on the bench alongside the returning Gregory.
Southend started with the same 3-4-3 formation that Millwall struggled with at times against Coventry last Saturday and the away side fell behind for the third successive league game when Mooney swivelled eight yards out and his shot deflected over Jordan Archer.
If Phil Brown’s idea was to put Martin under pressure by ordering attacker McGlashan to push up on the full-back, it paid off on 39 minutes. Yet it was Brown sarcastically applauding referee Graham Salisbury as Gregory came on. The Shrimpers boss felt Martin should have seen a second booking for fouling Mooney, and it certainly appeared Salisbury was reaching for a yellow card only to then change his mind.
Brown’s mood hadn't been helped by the way his defenders failed to react to Steve Morison’s header in the 33rd minute that O’Brien reached before goalkeeper Oxley to prod home his fourth of the season.
Gregory’s introduction meant O’Brien dropped to the left wing, and it was when he lost the ball in midfield that Millwall found themselves under pressure with the concession of two corners. From the second, Morison could only scoop his clearance to the edge of the box, where McLaughlin was waiting to control the ball on his chest and fire past Archer.
Harris introduced Thompson for Butcher in the 62nd minute, and the midfielder made an energetic burst down the left before summing up Millwall’s attacking ineffectiveness with a cross to the far post that found no one.
Barrett appeared to get away with hauling down Byron Webster in the box as the Millwall defender tried to connect with David Worrall’s cross, and then Tony Craig headed just over Oxley’s crossbar.
Southend were forced deeper to defend a succession of crosses into their box as Millwall became more one-dimensional in their frantic search for an equaliser.
Instead, it was a cross from Ben Coker that led to the home side’s clinching goal. Archer did well to claw away the left-wing back’s awkward cross from under his crossbar, but O’Neill was lurking eight yards out to finish.
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