Ten-men Southend United held on to their early lead to take all three points at The Vic this afternoon.
Colin Cooper's men dominated possession for the majority of the match but were just lacking that final ball to find the back of the net and pull back level after the visitors took a 5th-minute lead.
The visitors started strongly, forcing their first corner after less than a minute through Barry Corr who forced Christian Burgess into the challenge.
And after just five minutes Phil Brown’s men took the lead; a poor clearance from Darren Holden saw Will Atkinson pick up the ball and play it across the box for Freddie Eastwood who fired home to make it 1-0.
With a harder task now ahead of them, Pools took some time to find their stride in the game and it was Southend who at first looked brightest.
But a James Poole-inspired Pools began to edge their way back into the game as the first half wore on and, by half time, it was Cooper’s men who were the more threatening in front of goal.
Poole was a real driving force for his side in the first half, pushing forward with pace and determination and offering a real positive outlet
And the former Manchester City man pulled the first real save out of visiting keeper Daniel Bentley as he pushed in from the right to send a low shot across goal – only to be denied by the Southend stopper at full stretch.
Jonathan Franks crossed in from the right for Luke James but his header went wide, while Poole helped lift the game out of a flat spell with another driving run forward.
After making a good run down the right, Poole showed great footwork to escape the attentions of two defenders and sent a lovely cross into the box where Franks found himself with the best chance of the half. After taking the ball down neatly on his chest, Franks though saw his effort blocked out.
A great delivery from Jack Compton from a corner kick saw Brad Walker take the ball down and lay it on for James Poole who saw a rising effort tipped over the bar by Bentley.
Walker pulled another ball into the box back for Simon Walton and he let rip with a powerful drive on goal but he saw the ball scrape wide of the post in what was the last real strike of the half.
While there were no more real efforts on goal in the first half, there was plenty of action; a simple challenge by Walton lead to a real scrap on the touchline by the Southend dugout involving several players from both teams. After a long deliberation with his assistants, the
referee decided a yellow card for Neil Austin was the only required punishment.
Moments after the game re-started though, the referee had a red card in his hand; Barry Corr the guilty party as the assistant referee ruled he had fouled Jack Baldwin and, despite strong protests, the striker was shown red on the stroke of half time.
And so Pools had a very different challenge after the break as they now had to overcome a determined ten-men who were looking to hold on to their one-goal lead.
Cooper’s men continued their positivity in the second half and there was an early save from Daniel Bentley to deny Luke James who was rising to meet a Franks’ cross into the box.
As Pools upped the pressure, there were chances for Walker and Franks but Southend were determined, throwing bodies in the way to deny an equaliser.
James Poole broke the offside trap to push down the left before sending a looping ball into the area – Simon Walton arrived to send a first-time strike at goal but his effort went over the bar.
But Pools were maintaining their pressure and continued to threaten the Southend defence – despite the early set-back, Pools showed great positivity this afternoon.
Christian Burgess saw his strike from close-range blocked strongly, while a decent spell of pressure ended when Walker sent a low effort just wide of goal.
Pools were throwing everything at the Southend goal but that final touch to grab that equaliser looked like it was going to escape Cooper’s men this afternoon.
And so it was the Pools could just not find that equaliser from an otherwise entertaining match here at The Vic and ten-man Southend hung on for the three points.
Full Time: Pools 0 Southend United 1
Att: 3479 (215 Southend United)
Booked: Austin (43), Baldwin (84)
Pools: Flinders, Austin, Baldwin, Burgess, Holden, Walker, Franks (Rodney 77), Sweeney (Walton 17), Poole, Compton, James (61)
Subs Not Used: Rafferty, Collins, Richards, Boagey
Southend United: Bentley, White, Prosser, Phillips, Coker, Atkinson, Leonard, Laird (Thompson 82), Straker, Eastwood (Cowan 72), Corr
Subs Not Used: Smith, Timlin, Reid, Clifford, Payne