Chesterfield’s five match unbeaten run came to an abrupt halt at Roots Hall.
Paul Sturrock’s Shrimpers were themselves unbeaten in a dozen games going in to this match and for the opening 45 minutes the game was even if somewhat stale.
Then three second half goals, spread evenly every ten minutes from the 50th minute, destroyed a visiting side that was well under par after the break.
Ryan Cresswell opened the scoring, blasting in off the chest of Tendayi Darikwa after a partially cleared set play led to a rapid left-sided burst and cross back in.
Then Gavin Tomlin took over the scoring duties. He went into the game with nine goals in nine games and he latched on to a deep right sided cross from Chesterfield born ex Spireite Kevan Hurst to head beyond Tommy Lee.
Tomlin completed the scoring with a second header from former Alfreton Town left-back Chris Barker’s chip forwards, Lee will have been disappointed with the part he played in letting the striker in.
Paul Cook lamented: “Friday was a long way from what we need. We’ve been very good, that’s great, you can take the plaudits and that’s fantastic as a manager but I’ll also take the criticism.
“I told the players after the game that we win together and we lose together. That’ll never change for me. But to play for this club, you’ve got to show character and, away from home it’s not always pretty, it’s not always about playing well, but we lacked that quality at Southend.”
To compound the Spireites woes, Marc Richards was subbed just before half-time after feeling a tight hamstring.
Cook said it was a precautionary measure, but his absence meant Chesterfield had virtually no physical presence going forward and centre backs Cresswell and Luke Prosser lapped up everything served up by the visitors. Jack Lester’s suspension was really felt.
Cook selected his preferred team, Luis Boa Morte returned after his late pre-match withdrawal from the Burton encounter, Brennan Dickenson made way, and the opening half was always cagey, low risk football. United earned four corners without reply but neither keeper was unduly troubled, only a couple of home crosses caused consternation for the visitors.
Darikwa forced a save, not a convincing one, from Paul Smith straight after the re-start but Southend soon found themselves in front and in the driving seat.
The Spireites won four corners of their own but the first three were awful.
The hosts’ second sealed the destiny of the points and soon after that Chesterfield had their closest call. Home keeper Smith fluffed a clearance and Jay O’Shea reacted with a 20 yard overhead kick that dropped inches wide of the unguarded net.
Tomlin’s second led to continuing home pressure. Nathan Smith, Spireites best man, cleared off the line from a Freddy Eastwood shot as Sturrock’s Shrimpers ran out easy winners.
Cook said there’ll be changes when the transfer window opens: “There will be comings and goings, that’s not a threat, players have had a chance on the pitch to stake a claim and confirm they care and want to play for this club and in the second half at Southend, we didn’t have many of them.”
Southend: Smith, Clohessy, Cresswell, Prosser, Barker (Straker 86), Hurst, Laird, Mkandwire, Timlin, Assombalonga (Corr 82), Tomlin (Eastwood 82). Subs (not used): Bentley, Martin, Donnelly, Phillips.
Chesterfield: Lee, Talbot, Hird, Cooper, Smith, Darikwa, Randall (Clay 72), Togwell, Boa Morte (Dickenson 67), O’Shea, Richards (Boden 44). Subs (not used): O’Donnell, Forbes, Wafula, Townsend.
Ref: Rob Lewis (Shropshire).