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Match Reports

Southend United 2 Rovers 1

Opening day disappointment for Mowbray's men

5 August 2017

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Life in League One began on a sour note for Rovers, as they went down 2-1 away to Southend United.

The hosts opened the scoring on 27 minutes when Ryan Leonard volleyed home Michael Timlin's corner at the far post.
Debutant Bradley Dack came close to an equaliser for Rovers, before Southend doubled their advantage on 38 minutes when ex-Burnley man Michael Kightly tucked home the rebound after David Raya had made a smart save.
Rovers started the second half strongly and pulled a goal back on 53 minutes courtesy of Charlie Mulgrew's fantastic 30-yard free-kick. 
Raya made a superb save to deny Marc-Antione Fortune on 73 minutes and Southend had other efforts at goal late on, as Phil Brown's side saw out the remaining minutes with relative ease. 
Goalscorer Mulgrew led Rovers out for the League One opener against one of his former clubs.
The Scotland international, who takes over the armband from Jason Lowe, played 20 games for the Essex club on loan from Wolves during the 2007-08 season.
Tony Mowbray's starting line-up also included four summer signings - with Peter Whittingham, Richie Smallwood, Dominic Samuel and Dack all making their debuts at Roots Hall.
Rovers' back five of new number one Raya, Ryan Nyambe, Darragh Lenihan, Mulgrew and Derrick Williams all started the final game of last season at Brentford, whilst Danny Graham, who netted five goals in six games for Rovers in pre-season, led the line up front.
Craig Conway missed out with a hamstring injury, whilst Ben Gladwin wasn't risked with a slight calf strain.
There was a familiar face in the Southend starting line-up, as Stephen Hendrie, who made seven appearances for Rovers on loan from West Ham last season, started for the Shrimpers at left-back.
And the Southend defender had a heart-in-mouth moment inside the opening five minutes, as he headed Elliott Bennett's cross past his own keeper, only to clear the ball off the line.
The hosts had two chances in quick succession either side of the quarter-hour mark, with Leonard firing straight at Raya from outside the box, before Simon Cox blazed over the bar after controlling Jermaine McGlashan's cross.
Rovers almost broke the deadlock on 18 minutes when a ball into the box looking for Graham was cleared only as far as the unmarked Bennett, whose dipping volley forced a smart save from Mark Oxley.
Southend were getting some joy from the flanks and it led to the opening goal on 27 minutes. Kightly's cross from the left found McGlashan, whose downward volley had to be tipped over the bar by Raya. From the resulting Timlin corner, the unmarked Leonard volleyed home at the back post.
Rovers ought to have equalised on 36 minutes. Dack got to the byline and pulled the ball back to Samuel, whose shot on the stretch went behind for a corner. From the resulting delivery, Oxley palmed the ball into the path of Mulgrew, who crossed for Dack, but he headed over the unguarded goal from close range.
The visitors were made to pay for that miss moments later, as Southend added a second. Fortune saw a shot saved by the legs of Raya, but Kightly was on hand to fire home the follow-up.
Southend ended the half firmly in the ascendancy, with Cox volleying just wide from Fortune's flick-on just before the break.
Rovers came roaring out of the traps at the start of the second half and reduced the arrears on 53 minutes. Lenihan was fouled by Timlin 30 yards out and Mulgrew curled a sublime free-kick in off the post, reminiscent of his goal in Rovers' last league game at Brentford.
The visitors were forced into a change on the hour mark, as Liam Feeney replaced Dack and the substitute was immediately involved, dragging a left-foot shot wide of the target from 25 yards out.
Corry Evans came on for his first competitive appearance since January on 69 minutes, but it was the home side who threatened again on 73 minutes. Cox crossed from the left to the back post, McGlashan headed the ball back across goal and Fortune's header was superbly saved by Raya at point-blank range.
A Rovers debut for new signing Harry Chapman followed a minute later and he immediately had a sight of goal, but miscued his kick at the vital moment. 
McGlashan lashed over from 25 yards on 84 minutes and substitute Theo Robinson twice threatened with headers in the closing stages, as Southend saw out the match on top to secure the opening day spoils.
SOUTHEND: Oxley, Demetriou, Ferdinand (c), White, Hendrie, Kightly, Timlin, Leonard, McGlashan (McLaughlin 89), Cox (Robinson 77), Fortune. 

Subs not used: Smith, Kiernan, Yearwood, Bridge, Kyprianou.
Goals: Leonard (27), Kightly (38)
ROVERS: Raya, Nyambe, Lenihan, Mulgrew (c), Williams, Smallwood (Evans 69), Whittingham, Samuel, Bennett (Chapman 74), Dack (Feeney 60), Graham.

Subs not used: Leutwiler, Ward, Caddis, Tomlinson.
Goals: Mulgrew (53)
Booked: Lenihan, Nyambe, Williams
Attendance: 9,257 (1,555 Rovers fans)

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