Dennis 5

TOOTHLESS Weymouth were defeated 1-0 by relegation rivals Southend United in a miserable performance at the Bob Lucas Stadium.

Matty Dennis dispossessed Ollie Harfield in the fifth minute before racing clear and slotting home, setting the tone for the hosts’ bleak afternoon.

Southend had chances to extend their lead after Weymouth skipper Josh McQuoid had an effort blocked on the line.

Rhys Murphy and Sam Dalby wasted good chances for Southend, who were much the better side in a game of such magnitude.

Weymouth fans voiced their displeasure at full-time as the pressure on under-fire boss Brian Stock intensified with a seventh straight Vanarama National League loss.

READ MORE: Weymouth 0-1 Southend United - how it happened

Looking to break that run, Stock made three changes to the side that began the 3-2 loss to Eastleigh last time out.

Taofiq Olomowewe and Tom Solanke dropped to the bench, while there was no place in the matchday squad for Josh Leslie-Smith.

In came new signing Haji Mnoga for his debut, while Brandon Goodship and Ben Morgan were recalled to the starting XI.

Dorset Echo: Haji Mnoga, left, made his Weymouth debut Picture: MARK PROBINHaji Mnoga, left, made his Weymouth debut Picture: MARK PROBIN

Joining Olomowewe and Solanke on the bench were a trio of attacking options in Brad Ash, Tom Bearwish and Martell Taylor-Crossdale.

There was still no place in the squad for influential winger Sean Shields.

For Southend, new signing Harrison Neal earned a debut, while another new face, Ollie Kensdale, took a seat in the dugout.

With the sides languishing down in the bottom four prior to kick-off, one point separating them, they knew a win could potentially have huge benefits come the final standings.

But, just as it did three times at Eastleigh, a Weymouth defensive error was punished with a goal as early as the fifth minute.

Southend’s goal stemmed from a Weymouth free-kick which was cleared to Harfield, the left-back carelessly caught in possession by Dennis who sprinted through on goal.

He duly made no mistake when faced with the task of beating Ross Fitzsimons for his third goal in as many games.

Weymouth already had a hill to climb with 85 minutes remaining but their play, lacking in fluency and confidence, suggested it was more of a mountain.

Tyler Cordner, formerly of Southend, struck a tame 25-yard free-kick at Blues’ keeper Steve Arnold and Southend replied when Jason Demetriou fired wide.

One bright spark for the Terras was Brandon Goodship against his former club, his lively work out on the left picking out Omar Mussa, only for Southend to scramble it away and survive two corners.

Dorset Echo: Brandon Goodship looked one of Weymouth's livelier players Picture: MARK PROBINBrandon Goodship looked one of Weymouth's livelier players Picture: MARK PROBIN

Weymouth went through a lull in the next 15 minutes but sprung into life for the final five minutes of the half.

Goodship was at the heart of a good move and he teed up skipper Josh McQuoid who saw a shot blocked on the line by former Terras defender Shaun Hobson.

Weymouth were unchanged for the second half and again it was Southend who made the better start, forcing Fitzsimons into a superb save.

Sam Dalby’s flick-on evaded a Weymouth defender and former Yeovil striker Rhys Murphy prodded at goal, only for Fitzsimons to stoop low and prevent what would have been 2-0.

There was uproar among the Terras’ faithful on the hour when Goodship was subbed off for Tom Bearwish, leading to boos and discontented chants at manager Stock.

Weymouth had offered nothing in front of goal until Fitzsimons kept out a Dalby shot and set up a break from which Tom Blair thumped a poor shot off target.

Dorset Echo: Tom Blair, right, fired off target midway through the second half Picture: MARK PROBINTom Blair, right, fired off target midway through the second half Picture: MARK PROBIN

Southend looked towards their bench 20 minutes from time to replace goalscorer Dennis with Matt Rush as the Shrimpers made a like-for-like change.

Dalby fired over and a Tom Clifford corner was delivered too deep as Southend continued to press.

Stock gave five minutes to Ash as McQuoid was taken off but it was a Southend sub, Nathan Ferguson, who made the greater impact, firing inches wide after replacing Murphy.

Weymouth won a free-kick in stoppage-time for a final chance but Andy Robinson – who had been one of their better players on the day – sent a poor effort well over to sum up a miserable team display.

In the end, the Terras were beaten with a whimper as the pressure on boss Stock cranked up another notch, defeat leaving Weymouth four points from safety in 21st.

Terras: Fitzsimons, Morgan, Cordner, Goodship (Bearwish 59), Mussa, McQuoid (Ash 85), Mnoga, Robinson, Blair, Murray, Harfield. Subs not used: Taylor-Crossdale, Solanke, Olomowewe. 

Southend: Arnold, Ralph, Hobson, Murphy (Ferguson 88), Dalby, Clifford, Atkinson, Neal, Lopata, Demetriou, Dennis (Rush 69). Subs not used: Seaden, Coulson, Kensdale.

Attendance: 1,335