Ben Whiteman stole the show as his 10 minute second-half hat-trick ensured that Rovers came from behind to pick up their first home win in Sky Bet League One of the 2017/18 season.
The visitors started brightly, and had the game’s first chance inside the opening minute.
A ball over the top from Simon Cox was met at the back post by Josh Wright, but the midfielder’s first-time volley was tame and comfortably caught by the returning Ian Lawlor in the home goal.
Cox had the Shrimpers’ next chance just a few minutes later, this time a ball through the middle by Nile Ranger caused the Rovers’ defence all sort of problems, but Cox could only fire over from the edge of the area.
Rovers did get into the game and had the next opportunity to open the scoring.
The home side broke from a United corner, with Tommy Rowe, James Coppinger and John Marquis all baring down on goal.
Rowe played the ball through to Marquis, who’s shot was blocked by the back-tracking Ryan Leonard and away for a corner.
From the resulting corner came another chance for Rovers to take the lead – a scramble in the box from the Coppinger corner saw the ball eventually fall to Andy Butler, but the defender’s attempt to score was blocked on the line by Ranger.
Southend’s next chance came in the form of Ranger, who was still a thorn in the side of the home defence.
The ball was swung over from the right by Elvis Bwomono and met by the head of the towering Ranger, but it was straight at Lawlor who held the ball well.
Rovers responded well though and had three great chances to take the lead within the space of a minute.
First, Harry Toffolo’s ball up-field was controlled well by Alfie May, with the forward able to create an opening, however his shot was blocked by Anton Ferdinand and turned out for a corner.
Then Coppinger’s well-worked free-kick routine ended up back with the captain and met by Marquis, however his looping header was tipped onto the bar by Mark Oxley.
Rowe looking to follow up at the back post from the header couldn’t get enough on the ball, and Ferdinand was called in to action once more as he cleared behind for another home corner.
Against the run of play, however, the visitors took the lead. Another ball over the top was met by Ranger once again, and although his header was blocked on the line by Niall Mason, Anthony Wordsworth, who was controversially still on the pitch after lashing out at Jordan Houghton, headed home to give Southend the lead.
Rovers reacted well to going behind and could have been level just moments later.
A free kick for a foul on Houghton 20 yards out from goal saw captain Coppinger step up, and as his effort looked destined for the top corner, Oxley clawed the ball around the post for yet another Rovers corner.
On the stroke of half-time though, the goal that Rovers deserved did come, much to the relief of the home fans.
A quick throw-in caught out Josh Wright, who gave the ball away to Rowe, who’s ball in to the box was met by Marquis.
Marquis’ first attempt went straight back to Rowe, but Rowe acted sharply to give the ball back to the striker, who slotted home past a stranded Oxley and get Rovers back on level terms at the break.
Rovers came out firing in the second half, and immediately went in front.
Marquis was fouled just outside the area and Coppinger’s free kick smashed against the bar, however the ball fell to Whiteman who struck home in to the empty net from 12 yards out and give Rovers the lead.
The lead was extended just three minutes later, and in superb fashion, it was Whiteman who stole the show.
A free kick from the half-way line was pumped in by Coppinger, and although the ball was headed out, it was straight to Whiteman who was lurking just outside the box and fired a half-volley off the underside of the bar and into the back of the net.
The game was effectively ended as a contest with just under 15 minutes of the second half played, with Whiteman ensuring that he took home the match ball.
May’s superb run into the Shrimpers’ box was halted by Ferdinand, who tripped the striker and left the on-loan Sheffield United man to complete his hat-trick.
The midfielder duly obliged from 12 yards out to send Oxley the wrong way, and scored his third goal in the space of 10 minutes to extend the Rovers’ lead even further.
Cox did his best to try and get the Shrimpers back in to the game,but his effort on goal was blocked by Mason and the resulting corner came to nothing for the visitors.
Rovers went in search of a fifth, and went close to getting it as the game reached its final 15 minutes.
Coppinger broke away and fed through Rowe, however his first-time shot went wide of Oxley’s far post, but the intent from Rovers was still there as they looked hungry for more.
Southend had one last chance to cut the Rovers’ lead, as substitues Jermaine McGlashan and former Rovers’ man Theo Robinson combined, however Robinson could only fire straight at Lawlor from three yards out as Rovers maintained their three-goal advantage.
Rovers closed the game out well, and earned a well-deserved three points at the Keepmoat for the first time this season, and will now travel to South London next Saturday to face Charlton Atheltic full of confidence.