Half-time: Bristol Rovers 1 Southend United 2
An early opener from Fabian Broghammer has not been enough to offer Bristol Rovers a half-time lead at the Memorial Stadium tonight.
Broghammer pounced to convert a rebound after his initial shot had been save by Southend goalkeeper Paul Smith – but Southend hit back with goals from Gavin Tomlin and Kevan Hurst within four minutes of each other shortly before the break to give Paul Sturrock's side a slender half-time advantage.
Rovers boss Mark McGhee reverted to a more familiar flat-back four in a side showing two changes to the one which was knocked out of the FA Cup by Sheffield United on Saturday.
Tom Parkes returned from suspension to slot in alongside Garry Kenneth at the heart of defence, which allowed Matthew Lund to return to right-back, while Jim Paterson, was moved alongside Seanan Clucas in a deep-lying screening two-man midfield.
Enjoy one free child admission with a full paying adult ticket.
Terms: Not to be used in conjunction with any discounted ticket or special ticket offer. No cash alternative. Excludes Bank Holidays and Bank Holiday Weekends. Ref: This is Bristol Website Voucher
Contact: 01963 400330
Valid until: Friday, January 31 2014
In front of them, Derek Riordan, David Clarkson and Fabian Broghammer played in a three behind Tom Eaves, who was played up front on his own.
On-loan goalkeeper Neil Etheridge replaced Sam Walker, who dropped to the bench along with Michael Smith, who also started at the weekend. Defender Danny Woodards returned to the match day squad for the first time since breaking his leg at the end of last season and was named amongst the substitutes.
Rovers suffered an early scare when Michael Timlin struck the post with a shot inside the first two minutes when finding himself free on the left-hand side of the penalty area.
It sparked 'here we go again' groans from the stands, but McGhee's side managed to compose themselves and were unlucky not to score off the heads of both Tom Eaves and Lee Brown before they eventually took the lead in the 12th minute.
Southend goalkeeper Smith, who almost signed for Rovers at the start of the season before the deal fell through, made a good save to repel Broghammer's blistering effort from the inside the penalty area – but the rebound fell kindly to the German and he smashed it high into the net to break the deadlock.
Smith, however, made a good reflex save to deny Rovers an opportunity to double the advantage seven minutes later when he correctly read the flight of Eaves' deflected shot and managed to push the effort around the post.
Southend, meanwhile, looked dangerous enough on the break and would have had a goal themselves had Etheridge not made two fine saves to keep his sheet clean. The first was a desperate dive down to his near post to palm the ball away to spare Kenneth's blushes after a cross had hit the wrong side of his head.
The on-loan Fulham man then denied Tomlin from close-range after the former Yeovil striker had connected sweetly with a long ball that came over his shoulder inside the penalty area.
Tomlin, however, was not to be denied in the 39th minute when finding himself sprinting through on goal unopposed before slipping a nest finish past Etheridge to bring the perfect finish to a rapier-like Southend counter-attack.
Hurst was equally clinical from close-range when Sturrock's created another opening with some nest play around the Rovers penalty area in the 43rd minute.
Rovers (4-2-3-1): Etheridge, Lund, Kenneth, Parkes, L Brown; Clucas, Paterson, Broghammer, Clarkson, Riordan Riordan; Eaves. Subs: Walker, Smith, Woodards, Richards, Norburn, W Brown, Hunter.
Southend United (4-3-3): Smith; Clohessy, Cresswell, Phillips, Barker; Timlin, Mkandawire, Laird; Hurst, Assombalonga, Tomlin. Subs: Bentley, Straker, Eastwood, Corr, Martin, Leonard, Woodyard.