THREE goals in the space of 18 second half minutes condemned promotion-chasing Chesterfield to their first League Two defeat in five matches at Southend United, writes Dom Howson.
Former Rotherham United centre-back Ryan Cresswell and Gavin Tomlin (2) were on target to help Southend leapfrog the Millers into fourth position as they extended their unbeaten to 13 matches in all competitions.
Luis Boa Morte was recalled, having fully recovered from a hamstring problem, and replaced Brighton and Hove Albion loanee Brennan Dickenson in the sole change made by Spireites chief Paul Cook. Evergreen striker Jack Lester served the first of his three-match suspension for his red card last weekend.
Former Portugal international Boa Morte fired a 35-yard shot over the bar after nine minutes but the visitors had a major let off midway through the half when Gavin Tomlin’s cross clipped the crossbar before Sam Hird and Tommy Lee managed to snuff out the danger.
The Shrimpers, managed by ex-Sheffield Wednesday boss Paul Sturrock, upped the ante in search of the opener and Britt Assombalonga’s header from Chris Barker’s dangerous centre looped just wide.
It took an inch perfect tackle from Liam Cooper to stop Gavin Tomlin releasing the lively Assombalonga as the sides continued to cancel each other out.
Cook was forced to take off Marc Richards before the interval because of a hamstring injury, giving Scott Boden a chance to shine.
To compound the visitors woes, Southend broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute, Cresswell rifling home from close range after good play from Michael Timlin.
Mark Randall tried his luck from distance as Chesterfield looked for an immediate response.
But Southend came within a whisker of doubling their lead through Timlin, who blazed over after Cooper only half cleared a cross.
After a quick counter attack, Boden’s drive was deflected wide after a skilful surge from Jay O’Shea.
However, the Shrimpers extended their lead on the hour mark as Gavin Tomlin nodded in Kevan Hurst’s lovely delivery.
Three minutes later, Chesterfield were nearly handed a lifeline when goalkeeper Paul Smith made a hash of clearing a through ball but an acrobatic overhead kick from O’Shea drifted off target.
Then Tomlin grabbed his second of the contest after a smart one-two between Barker and Timlin.
In the 70th minute, Tendayi Darikwa brilliantly tricked his way past Barker before shooting wide.
Cook used his full quota of subs to try and spark Chesterfield but Southend should have made it four but a combination of Lee and Nathan Smith denied substitute Freddy Eastwood.
CHESTERFIELD:Lee; Talbot, Cooper, Hird, Smith; Darikwa, Randall (Clay 72), Togwell, Boa Morte (Dickenson 66); O’Shea, Richards (Boden 43). Substitutes:O’Donnell, Forbes, Townsend, Wafula.
Attendance: 5,273 (217 away)