REPORT: Southend 1-2 MK Dons: Clinical Dons dent Southend's play-off hopes
MK Dons put in a remarkable second half turnaround to see off play-off hopefuls Southend 2-0 at Roots Hall on Monday.
Despite having the better chances in the opening 45 minutes, Robbie Neilson's side were distinctly second best in the opening half, but dominated the second to take the three points.
Joe Walsh and Ben Reeves did the business for the visitors, before Simon Cox converted from the penalty spot in stoppage time.
After losing for the first time in six on Good Friday, Robbie Neilson made three changes to his side to face Southend. Ben Reeves, Darren Potter and Kieran Agard returned to the starting 11, with Robbie Muirhead and Giorgio Rasulo dropping to the bench. George Baldock was also named among the substitutes but missed out with a bruised foot. Callum Brittain, having made his debut against Scunthorpe on Friday, kept his place in the side, this time taking over at right back.
Southend, chasing a play-off place, started with a head of steam. Nile Ranger and Simon Cox both came close with decent early efforts but George Williams was on hand to get in the way of both to deny the home side an opener, and Lee Nicholls a save.
Remaining second best, Dons had decent chances of their own though Stuart O'Keefe's header lacked power, and Kieran Agard's shot lacked direction.
Despite being under pressure for most of the half, the best two chances fell to the visitors. After solid work from Ben Reeves on the left flank, Upson ghosted into the box late but his header spun just wide of Walton's upright before Agard read Anton Ferdinand's back pass to nip in before keeper Walton, pulling back for Harvey Barnes, but the shot was poor and easily dealt with, cleared from within the six yard box by the recovering Southend defence.
Having squandered their chances in the first half, it took just eight second half minutes for Dons to take one and it came from an unlikely source. Having scored just once all season, Joe Walsh rose highest to reach Reeves' corner, and though Walton got a touch on it, couldn't keep it out.
Southend almost responded immediately, but Anthony Wordsworth's low free kick was the width of the post away from drawing the home side level.
Walsh then had two bites of the cherry to double Dons' advantage from yet another Reeves cross, but twice saw his flicks denied before O'Keefe blasted one towards goal only to see it bravely blocked by Adam Thompson.
With the wind in their sails, Dons would double their lead just after the hour. O'Keefe slid in Agard to get the initial shot away, but Walton could only parry to Reeves, who routinely put the ball home from 12 yards.
Far from a repeat of the first half, Dons were by far the more dangerous in the second period and could have been even further ahead when Agard and Barnes drew good saves out of Walton.
Southend hit the woodwork for a second time when Ferdinand, lurking on the edge of the box, struck the upright as Dons could only half clear a corner.
The home side were gifted a way back into it deep in stoppage time when substitute George Baldock gave away a needless penalty as he hauled down Marc-Antoine Fortune. Simon Cox rolled home the consolation.
Referee: Andy HainesAttendance: 9,009 (529)
Southend: Walton, Wordsworth, Thompson, Timlin, Cox, McLaughlin (McGlashan 58), Atkinson (Robinson 58), Leonard, Demetriou, Ferdinand, Ranger (Fortune 75)Subs not used: O'Neill, Amos, Hines, Kyprianou
MK Dons: Nicholls, Brittain, Walsh, Williams, Lewington, Upson, Potter, O'Keefe, Barnes, Reeves (Tilney 90), Agard (Muirhead 73)Subs not used: Martin, Rasulo, Downing, Thomas-Asante
Booked: Reeves, Robinson, Wordsworth, Baldock