Aside from Maher, Southend also went into this encounter with injury worries and Tes Bramble and Darryl Flahavan, despite both starting, were both clearly suffering from their respective hamstring and knee injuries. Indeed Bramble only lasted 41 minutes, evenyually making way for Michael Kightly who featured as a striker for the first time in the senior side.
Southend however were still reeling from their disappointing FA Cup defeat at Conference side Scarborough in midweek and with Doncaster Rovers on a roll in the League at the moment, the Shrimpers found it tough going in the only quater of an hour and were two goals down within only seven minutes.
Southend had actually already won three corners, all of which were ultimately wasted, before Rovers forced their first flag kick with only three minutes on the clock. The resulting Michael McIndoe kick saw Leo Fortune-West, so many times a goalscorer against United, head home what must have been one of the easiest goals of his career from ten yards.
The visitors were not in the mood for hanging onto that precious goal however and just a further four minutes later a quickly taken free kick by John Doolan caught Southend sleeping and Gregg Blundell sent in a low cross for McIndoe to stab past Flahavan from close range to double the lead.
The second goal suddenly jolted United into some form of life and a low centre by Duncan Jupp saw Mark Gower cut the ball back by Hunt drove his effort wide of goalkeeper Andy Warrington's post. Minutes later a 30 yard Gower free kick zipped underneath the jumping wall but was safely gathered by Warrington.
As the attack-minded visitors continued to press forward Fortune-West headed a Jamie Price free kick just off target before good work involving newcomer Bentley and Constantine saw the latter cross for the former to flick a header towards Bramble who's shot prduced a world class save from the Rovers custodian.
Cort then produced a great block to deny Blundell's fierce shot before Rovers had a third goal harshly ruled out by referee Trevor Parkes on 32 minutes. There seemed to be little infringement when Price comprehensively headed a McIndoe corner past Flahavan from 15 yards.
Southend hadbeen given a reprieve by the Birmingham-based official, but unfortunately Steve Tilson's men failed to capitalise on their good luck, although five minutes later Gower curled an impressive free kick inches over the bar.
Flahavan was then left desperately scrambling across his goalline as Mark Albrington's header, from a McIndoe cross, bobbled just past the upright. Moments later, and with the last incident of the first half, Flahavan punched clear a McIndoe free kick but as the ball dropped down Doolan's crisp 35 yard drive brought a fine stop out of the Blues keeper.
The interval saw Hunt, struggling in his new central midfield role, replaced by Steven Clark as ex-Gravesend and Aldershot man Bentley was given a chance to show his stuff in the middle of the park.
Southend were a much improved side in the second half and virtually dominated proceedings with Kightly and Clark in particular trying to inspire Blues, but for all their trying - their effort could never be faulted - Southend just couldn't find that elusive goal.
Just three minutes after the re-start Gower knocked a neat ball out to Bentley who cut inside before unleashing an angled drive which brought a fine full-stretch save out of Warrington.
Seven minutes later Gower crashed a volley just over the top from the edge of the area before Kightly drove a low effort into the arms of the impressive Warrington.
As the match entered the final ten minutes Southend threw a few more desperate attacks at their visitors but Cort's shot brought another fantastic stop out of Warrington before a Gower free kick saw the out of sorts Constantine nod over the bar.
As the match ticked into injury United thought they had been thrown a lifeline when Parkes awarded the Shrimpers a penalty after Constantine was pulled back by Albrighton, but as Blues leading scorer picked the ball up and Warrington awaited the spot kick Parkes suddenly intervened and gave a goal kick. It was the most bizarre ending to another disappointing after for Southend United.
Referee: Brian Curson
Match Time: 94:55
Leo Fortune-West 3
Michael McIndoe 7
Duncan Jupp --
Jamie Stuart --
Mark Bentley --
Tim Ryan --
Total Goal Attempts
TLG Man Of The Match – Michael Kightly
Having replaced Tes Bramble, who was clearly still struggling from his hamstring injury, four minutes before the interval, Kightly became an integral part of what was a much improved second half display from United. Playing at centre-forward, the youngster who turns eighteen next week, ran his socks off in a bid to get his side back on the right track. Kightly always tried to win the second balls and put in a performance of somebody many years his senior.
NATIONWIDE LEAGUE DIVISION THREE - Saturday, 17th January 2004