HARSH words made all the difference for John Coleman as Accrington Stanley picked up their first clean sheet since January with a battling 1-0 win at Southend United.

Colby Bishop bagged his fifth goal of the season to help Stanley to their second win of the campaign, firing home seven minutes into the second half.

Nathan Ralph’s red card 17 minutes from time helped Accrington ease home, not that Coleman was completely convinced with how things played out at Roots Hall.

“I’m delighted with the clean sheet, but I don’t think we played well in the first half,” said the manager. “We were ponderous and laboured and we didn’t really hurt them, so some harsh words were said at half-time. We had to improve and we did.

“Even before the sending off we were the team in the ascendancy and we deserved to go 1-0 up.

“We missed a couple of chances and you worry that might come back and haunt you but thankfully it didn’t.

“To win the game, we’re delighted. We created a lot of chances and to do that away from home is good.

“It can’t stop there but when we get it right, we’re a good side and we can hurt teams in this league. But when we get it wrong, we can beat ourselves and that’s something we have to iron out.”

In an uneventful game of few goal-scoring opportunities, Accrington first threatened midway through the opening half when Sam Finley’s 20-yard shot was deflected over the bar.

The Shrimpers suffered two injuries in the first half with attacking duo Charlie Kelman and Simon Cox both going off injured.

And Accrington took full advantage to open the scoring in the 52nd minute with Bishop firing home Jerome Opoko’s left-wing cross from eight yards.

Stanley then wasted a golden opportunity to double their lead with unmarked substitute Offrande Zanzala somehow headed over from close range before Finley saw another well-struck shot tipped over by goalkeeper Mark Oxley.

Accrington’s hopes of victory were further boosted in the 73rd minute when Shrimpers left-back Ralph was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Finley.

The visitors came close to doubling their lead when Sean McConville saw his downward header impressively saved by Oxley, but one goal proved enough for the vital win.

“I’m pleased for the fans who came down and it’s nice to see their faces at the end of the game,” added Coleman.

“Southend have scored quite a few goals. They’re very clinical when you look at the stats.

“For chances converted they’re second in the league. So we did well to limit them and our goalkeeper hasn’t had to make a save.”

Southend United: Oxley, Bwomono, Kiernan, Lennon, Ralph, Kelman (Goodship 20), Milligan, Hamilton (Hutchinson 82), McLaughlin, Cox (Mantom 44), Humphrys. Subs not used: Bishop, Hyam, Shaughnessy, Demetriou

Accrington Stanley: Evtimov 7, Johnson 7, Sykes 7, Hughes 7, Opoku 7, Conneely 6, Clark 7, McConville 7, Finley 7, Bishop 7 (Zanzala 60, 5), Charles 6 (Pritchard 82, 6). Subs not used: Bursik, Edwards, Sherif, Alese, Diallo