Rochdale suffered their first back to back league defeats in five months with a 3-0 loss at home to Southend United on Good Friday.
First half goals from Barry Corr and Jacob Murphy saw the Shrimpers take a lead into the interval, before Michael Timlin extended their advantage sixty seconds after the break.
There were three changes to the eleven who lined up against Mansfield Town last weekend. There was a return from injury for centre half Jack O’Connell, who replaced Rhys Bennett, while Michael Rose and Joe Bunney started ahead of Jamie Allen and Peter Vincenti.
Conditions were perfect, with glorious sunshine shining down on an excellent surface at Spotland, which suited two teams who wanted to get the ball down and play.
The opening exchanges were scrappy, though, as both sides looked to get a foothold on the game. That was only for a short five minute spell, however, as the match soon burst into a high tempo entertaining encounter.
With five minutes on the clock Dale showed the first intent as a superb ball from Bunney down the right hand side of play fed in Ian Henderson. He in turn played the ball through to Matty Lund, who could only over-hit his cross. While the final ball failed to test the visitors, it saw the match come to life.
Three minutes after the break forward from Dale, they again applied the pressure, carving out their first real opportunity of the game.
O’Connell drove forward from his defensive position, before sending a ball over the top for an on-running Bunney, who had beaten the off-side trap. The pass sent the young striker through on goal, but he could only screw an effort across the face of goal and narrowly past the upright.
Dale were looking lively, but found themselves a goal behind on 11 minutes following a defensive error.
Matty Done was disposed, allowing Jacob Murphy to pick out the unmarked Barry Corr inside the area. He had the easy task of slotting the ball beyond Josh Lillis.
GOAL: Rochdale 0-1 Southend United (Corr, 11 minutes)
On 15 minutes Dale came agonisingly close as they hit the Shrimpers on the break. Done led the attack down the left hand side of play, before firing an effort goal wards from the edge of the 18-yard box. The effort had beaten the ‘keeper, but his effort went fractionally wide of the target. Hogan had matched his run, but failed to make a connection with the ball as he slid in at the back post in an attempt to turn it over the line.
And four minutes later Rochdale were denied by the woodwork as Ian Henderson’s long range effort rattled off the underside of the bar before bouncing back into play.
Sixty seconds later and Dale had another opportunity inside the area, but in the end they were unable to test ‘keeper Bentley as Lund and Hogan got in each other’s way, forcing an effort past the post.
The visitors were gifted a chance shortly afterwards after a back pass from Olly Lancashire was intercepted by Michael Timlin, putting pressure on Lillis, who had come off his line. O’Connell was the saviour as he cleared the effort from Timlin off the line.
On the half hour mark, Dale were a dealt a blow as Scott Hogan failed to shake off an earlier knock and had to be replaced. George Donnelly was introduced onto the field of play.
Dale continued to search for the equaliser but it was Southend who doubled their lead shortly before the interval as they hit Dale on the break. Ryan Leonard powered down the left hand side of play, feeding in Jacob Murphy, who had matched his run. Murphy tapped home to make it 2-0 to the visitors.
GOAL: Rochdale 0-2 Southend United (Murphy, 44 minutes)
HT: ROCHDALE 0-2 SOUTHEND UNITED
There was a double substitution for Rochdale at the interval with Jamie Allen and Peter Vincenti replacing Peter Cavanagh and Michael Rose.
Dale had set up as an attacking 4-4-2 formation for the start of the second half, but found themselves conceding a third goal less than sixty second after the re-start.
Leonard’s ball forward from kick-off was flicked on by Corr to Kevan Hurst, who in turn picked out Timlin. He fired a volley beyond Lillis from six yards.
GOAL: Rochdale 0-3 Southend United (Timlin, 46 mins)
The second half quickly became a hard fought out affair for Dale as the Shrimpers sat back to protect their comfortable lead. There was an urgency about Rochdale’s play, but they were unable to break down a resolute Southend side.
The Shrimpers were defending strongly, however Dale were able to carve an opportunity in the 63rd minute, as Allen saw a powerful effort deflected into the side netting, leading to a corner from which Dale had a goal disallowed for an off-side flag against Bunney.
Up the other end, woodwork stood in the way of Southend and a fourth goal, three minutes later, as the bar kept our a tremendous 35-yard effort from Leonard.
Dale huffed and puffed for the remainder of the game, but were unable to find a way past Southend to net a consolation goal.
It finished Rochdale 0, Southend United 3.