BURY'S hopes of moving out of the League One relegation zone were blown off course by an impressive late strike from Ryan Leonard, which condemned them to a 1-0 defeat at Southend United on Saturday.

The winning goal came six minutes from time on a blustery afternoon at Roots Hall and made it seven matches without a league win on the road for the Shakers this season.

Boss Lee Clark felt his players believed they had done the hard work after making it to the break without conceding, and took their foot off the gas as the home side battled against the worst of the conditions in the second half.

“We just didn’t do enough after the break,” said Clark.

“I think we came out with the mindset that we thought we’d done the hard bit, we’d defended against the wind and made some good chances in the first half.

“But in the second we didn’t do enough.

“I know it was an excellent goal that’s ended up beating us but we haven’t done enough to take the game to Southend.

“We did some good things in the first half, but we didn’t have enough confidence in our attacking play.”

And Clark also felt Bury struggled to deal with the stormy conditions.

“Southend dealt with it much, much better than we did,” he said.

“The bottom line is we didn’t put Southend under enough pressure.

“When someone scores from distance, you should always have someone trying to block the ball.

“However, that wasn’t the case and the result has gone against us.”

Clark's obvious frustration was possibly heightened by the fact his side created the better chances in what was an even game.

But for the second time in the space of five days, following a 2-1 defeat in midweek at Blackpool, they failed to ram home their advantage.

Chris Maguire had an early 25-yard free kick tipped over by Southend goalkeeper Mark Oxley before a neatly constructed counter-attack led to Harry Bunn racing through, only for Leonard to charge back and make a superb block.

Moments later, Maguire was again denied by Oxley as he attempted to lift the ball over the advancing goalkeeper when clear through on goal.

And Michael Smith missed a great chance to break the deadlock when he headed Maguire’s cross wide of the near post when well-placed inside the penalty area.

Southend threatened at the start of the second half, with Simon Cox heading Michael Kightly’s corner wide of the far post.

But Bury again went close at the other end, the impressive Oxley tipping Bunn's well-struck shot on to the bar and away to safety.

All the missed opportunities finally came back to haunt the visitors when Leonard found the net with a spectacular long-range effort. The Shrimpers midfielder latched on to the rebound after his initial effort was blocked and fired in off the underside of the bar from 25 yards.

The hammer blow left Bury fourth-bottom, in the final relegation spot, three points behind 20th-placed Oldham, who they visit on Tuesday.

Match ratings

Bury (3-4-1-2): Murphy 6; Edwards 6, O’Connell 7, Aldred 7; Bunn 7 (Williams 6, 77), Laurent 5 (Ince 6, 60), Reilly 5, Leigh 5; Maguire 5 (O’Shea 6, 60); Beckford 6, Smith 5. Not used: Fasan, Tutte, Dobre, Shotton.

Southend United (4-4-2): Oxley; Demetriou, White, Ferdinand, Timlin; Wright, Leonard, Wordsworth, Kightly (Ranger 63); Cox (Robinson 90), Fortune (McLaughlin 69). Not used: Bishop, Ba, Yearwood, Bwomono.

Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey).

Attendance: 6,787 (158 visiting).