Southend 3 Walsall 0 - Report and pictures
Walsall slipped to their second away loss in four days after they were beaten 3-0 by Southend at Roots Hall.
A brace from Harry Bunn along with a Timothee Dieng header saw Chris Powell’s side secure the points in Essex.
But the scoreline didn’t reflect the story of the match with the Saddlers made to pay for not taking their chances.
Winger Josh Ginnelly was guilty of missing a glorious chance inside the opening four minutes.
While in first-half stoppage time, one of Luke Leahy or Jon Guthrie should have tapped in a Connor Ronan corner which flashed along the six-yard box.
Instead, the Saddlers went in at the break behind thanks to Bunn’s opener. And while they continued to look dangerous, Dieng and Bunn netted late on to ensure it was the Shrimpers who took the points.
After a disappointing display in the defeat at Luton on Saturday, Keates opted to ring the changes for the trip to Essex.
Connor Ronan, Isaiah Osbourne, Kieron Morris and Kane Wilson - who was making his first league start - all came into the side with Zeli Ismail, Andy Cook, Liam Kinsella and Nicky Devlin the men to make way.
It meant the Saddlers lined up in a 4-1-4-1 system with Osbourne the holding midfielder and Morgan Ferrier the lone striker.
Southend boss Chris Powell opted for a 4-3-3 formation for the first time this season with Tom Hopper the central striker and Harry Bunn and Stephen McLaughlin wide.
They also included former Saddlers Jason Demetriou and Sam Manton in their starting line-up with Mantom skippering the side.
Eager for a reaction following that poor showing at Kenilworth Road, it was the Saddlers who started the game on the front foot.
And they should have taken the lead inside four minutes when Wilson burst down the right before finding Ronan.
The Wolves loanne then whipped in an inviting cross which an unmarked Josh Ginnelly glanced wide when he should have scored.
Keates’ men had begun the game well with Luke Leahy seeing a dangerous free-kick cleared while a fierce Morris drive from 25-yards was blocked.
But the game was then stopped for an extended period after Harry Lennon picked up what looked to be a serious looking injury.
And fired-up after losing their team-mate, it was the Shrimpers who then took the lead shortly after the re-start - with what had been their first real sight of goal.
After Ben Coker had seen an effort from outside the box parried away, Mantom sent in the resultant corner with Taylor Moore headed against the bar.
But Bunn was then on hand to fire in from close range.
Walsall responded well to falling behind with Keates men continuing to look bright on the ball albeit with Ferrier a touch isolated up front.
And they came a whisker away from pulling level when Leahy saw a glancing header deflect just inches over following a Ronan corner.
Following the injury to Lennon - as well as Hopper who also had to come off - the referee added eight minutes of stoppage time and the end of the first half.
And it was in added-on time Walsall created another glorious chance to score with Ronan sending another excellent corner right across the six-yard-box.
The ball was begging to be knocked in by either Leahy or Jon Guthrie but both failed to connect with the ball then sailing out of play.
Both teams had decent attempts on goal early in the second-half.
For Southend, Mantom hit a fierce drive from 25-yards narrowly wide. Then for the Saddlers, Ginnelly met a Leahy cross only to see his header tipped over by Mark Oxley.
While overall, the second-half was proving a fairly even affair, Keates’ men continued to look dangerous and they threatened again when Morris did well to down the right before sending in a cross which a diving Ferrier headed wide.
Keates made his first change with 20 minutes remaining, Andy Cook replacing Ronan.
But just moments later it was Southend who doubled their advantage with a Mantom corner being powerfully headed into the roof of the net by Dieng.
Suddenly the Shrimpers were rampant with Powell’s men creating two glorious chances to extend their lead further.
First McCloulsky collected the ball in the box before seeing an arrowed drive tipped away by Liam Roberts.
Then from the resultant corner, the Walsall glovesman made an even better stop to keep out a Michael Turner header.
But eight minutes from the time the hosts did get a third with Bunn hitting a low drive in the box which looped up off the leg of Fitzwater and into the net.
Southend: Oxley, Demetriou, Moore, Lennon (Turner 18), Coker, McLaughlin, Mantom, Dieng, Bunn (Kightly 83), Yearwood, Hopper (McCoulsky 30).
Subs not used: Bishop, Bwomono, Robinson, Hendrie.
Walsall: Roberts, Wilson, Fitzwater, Guthrie, Leahy, Osbourne, Morris, Dobson, Ronan (Cook 71), Ginnelly, Ferrier
Dunn, Devlin, Cook, Ismail, Kinsella, Johnson, Gordon.