Forest Green Rovers were humbled 3-1 by league strugglers Southend United as they missed out on the opportunity to go top of League Two on Wednesday evening.

Goals from Shaun Hobson, Timothee Dieng and a spectacular long-range strike from Nathan Ferguson proved decisive in denying Rovers an important win, despite a late Jamille Matt consolation.

Forest Green nearly got off to the perfect start after just three minutes, however former Southend man Isaac Hutchinson saw his tight angled free kick attempt land on the roof of visitor’s net.

The first clear chance of the game came after 17 minutes when Reeco Hackett-Fairchild latched on to a long ball but his shot was blocked well and bounced past the Rovers goal.

After a sustained period of pressure, the Shrimpers opened the scoring on 20 minutes. The goal came through the most unlikely of scorers as defender Hobson volleyed home a powerful effort to net his first of the season.

Southend looked a threat down the right-hand side and they continued to apply pressure from the wings. Just four minutes after the goal, Hackett-Fairchild delivered a pin-point cross to Emile Acquah but the forward’s glancing header flew marginally wide.

With chances few and far between for Rovers, Baily Cargill did manage to come close to levelling the contest on 38 minutes but his header sailed over Mark Oxley’s crossbar.

It took until just before the stroke of half time for Rovers to register their first shot on target; Odin Bailey took aim from range and the swirling wind meant Oxley did well to tip the shot over his net.

Rovers boss Mark Cooper took drastic action at half-time and made a triple substitution to inject some fresh enthusiasm into his side. Matt, Aaron Collins and Jayden Richardson were all given the nod to liven the game up for the Forest Green as Josh Davison, Hutchinson and Chris Stokes made way.

Rovers’ miserable evening was made worse on 55 minutes as Southend doubled their advantage. After a scrappy piece of play in the box, the ball fell to Dieng who did well to curl his shot into the right hand-side of Lewis Thomas’ goal.

On 70 minutes, Ferguson netted the third and most sublime of the evening for Southend. The midfielder’s speculative 35-yard strike caught everyone off guard, including Thomas, as it rifled into the top left corner of his net.

Four minutes from time, Forest Green did manage to pull a goal back through substitute Matt tapping home from close following a Jake Young cross but it wasn’t enough to mount a late comeback as Rovers suffered their sixth league defeat of the season.