Southend United 1-2 Cambridge United
Let’s be honest, despite the notable improvement at Southend United, upward momentum was never going to be plain sailing.
Four successive home victories had gone some way towards clawing back the mammoth chasm caused by those damaging opening fifteen Sky Bet League Two matches. However, Southend’s lack of quality in the final third alarmingly exposed as promotion-chasing Cambridge United came, saw and ultimately conquered at Roots Hall Stadium.
Admittedly, the margins have become smaller. Southend enjoyed much the better of the opening half, taking the lead when Simeon Akinola nodded home Sam Hart’s troublesome flag-kick.
But they failed to take advantage of a series of chances as well as the blustery conditions and were made to pay by a U’s side who moved to the top of the table as a result of their 2-1 success.
Blues lead lasted less than sixty seconds after the restart. Jack Iredale’s crisp effort the proverbial big punch. Southend was on the ropes. Emile Acquah and Akinola went close, but you get no prizes for close, and so it proved.
Joe Ironside profited from Paul Mullins’ toil to win it for Cambridge. The visitors’ game management matching their extra quality when it mattered.
“It was quite a scruffy battle,” Blues boss Molesley confessed.
“First-half, I thought we asked a lot of questions and we put a lot of balls in the box. We only got the one goal and maybe with a bit of wind assistance, we were unlucky not to get a couple more. We were slightly on top in the first-half and then they flipped it and put us under pressure with some aerial balls in our box.
“But, again we momentarily switched off for their two goals and that’s the frustrating thing. We’ve got a bit disorganised in two areas and it’s cost us. Cambridge are at the top of the league because they punish teams and two or three times we went a little bit sloppy, got our distances a little bit wrong and our body shape, and we got punished for it.
Molesley added: “There wasn’t too much between the teams apart from that – Sim has hit the post, second-half. We’re bitterly disappointed but we’re hard on ourselves and we need to show a bit more quality and a bit more guile at times because on the ball we wasted it too many times.
Southend United return to Sky Bet League Two action on Saturday, January 23 when Mansfield Town are the visitors to Roots Hall Stadium (3pm).
Southend United: Oxley, Bwomono, McCormack (Clifford 82’), Hobson, Dieng, Akinola, Acquah (Hackett-Fairchild 59’), Halford (Nathaniel-George 73’), Demetriou (K Taylor 73’), Hart, White (Capt) Subs not used: Seaden, Howard, R Taylor
Cambridge United: Mitov, Knoyle, Iredale, Digby, Taylor (Capt), Darling, Mullin (O’Neil 90+6’), Dunk, Davies, May, Ironside Subs not used: Burton, Okedina, Cundy, Knibbs, Worman, Neal
Referee: Robert Madley
Assistants: Daniel Cook and Stephen Brown
Fourth Official: Ryan Whitaker