Southend Utd 4, City 0

C’mon Bury; do us a favour Cheltenham; play up Wycombe. Somebody, anybody, do City a favour this afternoon.

Prepare for a day of gnashing nails after another night to forget. Now we’re relying on others to stop the likes of Barnet, Burton and Northampton from dragging the Bantams deep into the mire.

With all the rumblings over Valley Parade and Odsal, Roots Hall is one ground that City would gladly never want to darken again.

This was their 14th visit to Southend’s home and they are still looking for a first win. The only way is defeat in this part of Essex.

There were mitigating circumstances, of course. Peter Jackson had to scratch around to find a team, so players everywhere were out of position.

It’s hard to blame Jacko at all. What else could he have done with the meagre resources available?

As Harry Redknapp would say, City were down to the bare bones after Steve Williams added to the injury woes with a late pull-out.

With Lewis Hunt out of contention, it meant an even more patched-up back four. Lee Bullock shifted into the middle alongside Luke Oliver and Luke O’Brien was switched from left midfield to emergency right back.

Gareth Evans was back on the wing so Scott Dobie came in to partner Michael Flynn in a front two without a goal to their names this season. City’s bench included three youth players.

Paul Jewell and Sean McCarthy, his chief scout at Ipswich, were interested spectators. How their old club could have done with either of them in their prime up front.

Bullock won a couple of early headers and David Syers produced a timely challenge as Harry Crawford prepared to let fly. City gained a free-kick in a tasty position but Evans slammed it straight into the Southend wall.

Craig Easton hooked the night’s first shot well over the bar but City were grateful to Jon McLaughlin’s reflexes for keeping the game scoreless on 17 minutes.

Robbie Threlfall tugged Crawford beside the left side of the box and Sean Clohessy’s free-kick picked out Graham Coughlan for a free header which the keeper athletically tipped over the bar.

It was a good save, though questions had to be asked about why the former Rotherham centre half was left on his own eight yards out.

But City’s mix-and-match defence was exposed as Southend broke the deadlock after 29 minutes.

Ryan Hall’s clever pass caught O’Brien on the wrong side of Crawford in the City box and the makeshift right back bundled him down.

McLaughlin guessed right with Barry Corr’s penalty but the spot-kick was too precise and nestled in the bottom corner.

Tom Adeyemi had been an isolated figure in the opening half hour and his first chance to break was cut short by a lunge from Kane Ferdinand, which earned the Republic of Ireland under-21 international a yellow card.

City were finding it tough to create anything going forward and every time Luke Oliver went up to win the header at a setpiece, he was pulled up by referee Mark Brown’s whistle.

Southend’s front three looked lively but the same could not be said for Chris Barker, who rumbled upfield menacingly – only to hammer a typical defender’s effort over the stand and out of the ground.

City had another scare four minutes before the break when nobody dealt with a bouncing ball, allowing Luke Prosser space to nod over another good chance.

But Southend’s growing control of matters was underlined with a second goal in the 43rd minute.

Anthony Grant squared a free-kick to Hall, whose 25-yarder flicked off the sliding Jon Worthington and past McLaughlin. There might have been a touch of fortune about the strike but City could have few complaints with the scoreline.

They had offered very little going forward – a trickling effort from Flynn was City’s sole go at goal – and there was an inevitability about how the match was panning out.

It was difficult to see any way back at half-time. Even if Jackson wanted to shake things up, there were few obvious answers on the bench.

So he kept with the same 11 for the restart but made his point by sending them back out well before the home side.

There was a brief improvement as City stirred belatedly into life attacking their 163 travelling fans.

Adeyemi forced a one-handed save from Glenn Morris, pushing his powerful shot over the angle of post and bar. City won a couple of corners but Oliver failed to make contact from the more threatening one.

Evans delivered a wild effort that matched Barker from earlier but at least the Bantams were trying to make a game of it again.

Flynn and Dobie had struggled to strike up an understanding but should have got it right after 53 minutes. The Welshman’s pass slipped his partner in behind the home defence but Dobie tried to go round Morris rather than shooting straight away and the keeper was able to whip the ball off his feet.

For a while, there was a bit more purpose about City’s performance; no doubt a few home truths from Jackson were still ringing in the ears.

Threlfall was booked for a foul on Hall before Jackson made a double switch, Leon Osborne replacing Adeyemi and Jake Speight taking over from the ineffective Dobie.

But before either had got a touch, it needed a thundering challenge from Oliver to thwart Crawford in the City box. The respite was minimal as Southend’s third goal arrived in the 65th minute to kill off the contest.

Hall turned from scorer to provider with a left-wing cross and Ferdinand timed his run perfectly to thump the header past McLaughlin. The game was up for City.

To their credit, the travelling supporters struck up a good noise behind the Southend goal. At least the gallows humour was alive and kicking. They were still singing as Southend cranked up the agony with a fourth four minutes later.

McLaughlin rushed out of his goal to try to beat Hall to Grant’s lofted pass but the keeper was beaten to the punch and Hall, the game’s outstanding performer, punished the rash decision with the perfect finish from a tight angle.

Southend were running riot and McLaughlin was lucky to get away with another misjudgement. Grant intercepted a loose pass from Evans and his shot skimmed up in front of the diving keeper, whose faint touch fortunately pushed the ball up onto the bar.

City were looking for the slightest of consolations and Threlfall nearly provided it with a cracking free-kick that smacked against the Southend bar. It wouldn’t have changed anything but it was the smallest of positives.

With the result long beyond doubt, Jackson used the opportunity to give Dominic Rowe his first taste of senior football. The little winger was quickly on the ball and demonstrated his pace by back-tracking enthusiastically to prevent a Southend fifth.

The Shrimpers continued to enjoy themselves as the game drifted into added time and Threlfall cleared Coughlan’s header off the line. Then Corr had a go from inside his own half, almost catching McLaughlin off his line.

Southend, as Jackson mentioned beforehand, have nothing else to play for this season. Sadly the same cannot be said for City.

Jackson marched his players over to the fans after the game to thank them for making the long, fruitless trip. The only reward the supporters want is those points to reach the safety mark.

That Burton game on Tuesday night is looming larger and larger.

Attendance: 5,217