"Well I wouldn't say that as I don't like to be modest" said United boss Steve Tilson in reaction to claims of an 'inspired substitution' in a post-match interview to BBC Essex.
"However, Wayne has come off the bench, scored with his first touch and won and scored the penalty. It gives me a nice selection problem for Tuesday [when Yeovil Town visit Roots Hall]" continued the manager, who can seemingly do no wrong at the moment as his Shrimpers side rose to second place in the League One, with only goal difference keeping Swansea City at the summit of the table.
Southend had seen themselves flying mid-way through the first half with strikes from Mark Bentley, returning to the side in the absence of back-injury victim Mark Gower, and Adam Barrett earning a two-goal advantage.
By half-time though, Rotherham, outplayed and out-fought previously, somehow found themselves on level terms. Defender Colin Murdock was allowed a free header from a John Mullin corner before an extremely harsh penalty decision, given against Barrett for a supposed push, saw ex-Derby County frontman Deon Burton equalise from the spot.
"I was disappointed that we let them back in the game like that" said Tilson. "The guy [Murdock] was allowed a free header and then the penalty. Was it a penalty? I don't know, but the referee has given it and it undone the hard work we had done. I think we deserved to be leading at the break".
In fact it had been a first half to forget up until Mark Bentley's 18th minute opener as neither side, despite some smart football on a good playing surface, had managed to muster an attempt on goal. United took the lead though when Mitchell Cole burst down the left flank before cutting inside and delivering a low ball in the box which was bundled home by Bentley despite the pressure of Murdock.
It was eight minutes later that Southend's lead was doubled. A Kevin Maher free kick from the right wing was swung in to the far post where Adam Barrett rose unopposed to head past goalkeeper Neil Cutler.
The Millers threatened to pull a goal back when Burton's dipping 20-yard shot bounced off the top of the crossbar, but they were back in the game on 34 minutes when Mullins' left side corner was powered home by the unmarked head of Murdock from close range.
It was then in the second minute of first half stoppage time that referee Lee Probert awarded a home side a controversial penalty. There seemed little danger or contact as Barrett beat Burton in the air. There were few appeals from players or supporters but Probert still stunned everybody by pointing to the spot. Burton found few problems in stroking the ball past Darryl Flahavan.
Rotherham were bouyed by their good fortune after the break, and Flahavan did well to hold onto a Martin Butler lob before the former Cambridge United and Reading player also hit the crossbar, though this time from close range.
Southend however, continued to patiently play their stuff and carved out three good opportunities only minutes after the interval, with Shaun Goater, returning to one of his former Clubs, unlucky not to re-establish his new sides advantage. First the Bermudan striker headed a Cole centre into the arms of Cutler before a swivel and a shot saw the ball whizz only inches wide of the post with stopper Cutler beaten.
Goater's blocked shot only moments later gave Luke Guttridge a shooting chance, but the diminutive midfielder fired over the bar from 15 yards.
Tilson didn't doubt his side though, and with six minutes remaining threw on Wayne Gray. Gray immediately jogged into the penalty area where he duly got onto the end of Kevin Maher's floated free kick to head past Cutler from six yards and put United, deservedly, back in front.
Gray wasn't finished there either. With two minutes left on the clock he burst into the penalty area only to be wrestled to the floor by the uncompromising Murdock leaving Probert this time with no option but to award a spot kick. Gray himself was tossed the ball, and blasted his kick into the roof of the net to seal the Shrimpers fifth successive triumph.
Indeed, United still carved out an opportunity for a fifth goal, Lewis Hunt surging to the near post where his low ball would have brought an almost certain goal for last-minute substitute Jay Smith if not for a desperate clearance from Murdock.
Southend now face the task of beating Yeovil Town on home turf on Tuesday night, and Tilson is looking forward to the game: "Yeovil are certainly our bogey side, however we are coming off the back of five straight wins and a sure to be full of confidence. We'll play the way we do and hopefully pick up another result".
ROTHERHAM UNITED:- Neil Cutler; David Worrell (Will Hoskins 85), Shaun Barker, Colin Murdock, Gregor Robertson, John Mullin, Paul McLaren, Lee Williamson (Jon Otsemobar 85), Michael Keane, Deon Burton, Martin Butler. Unused subs - Paul Hurst, Grant Leadbitter, Gary Montgomery.
SOUTHEND UNITED:- Darryl Flahavan; Lewis Hunt, Che Wilson, Andy Edwards, Adam Barrett, Kevin Maher, Luke Guttridge (Jay Smith 89), Mark Bentley (Wayne Gray 84), Mitchel Cole, Shaun Goater, James Lawson (Freddy Eastwood 79).
Unused subs - Spencer Prior, Bart Greimink.
REFEREE:- Lee Probert (Gloucestershire)
(Report first posted in The Little Gazette September 24th, 2005.)
And, and of course, we know how the run finishes, a 1-0 televised win over Nottingham Forest and a club record eight wins on the trot to kick-start the season, in a very big way, that finished with the Shrimpers as League One Champions. (Blimey, we could even afford to have Spencer Prior on the subs bench!)
It was also the first time a few of us heard 'two-nil up and you fucked it up' after the Millers got back to 2-2 just before half-time with their fans right next to us kept apart by a small walkway with a few coppers and stewards in attendance!
Sadly, for the home support, Wayne Gray did his stuff and it was soon; '2-2 and you fucked it up'
Live by the sword and all that, happy days! (EEB)