Walthamstow kept up the pace with the league’s leaders but were forced to grind it out against a resolute Southend Manor side.

Stow were still without Jack Leachman, Billy Jones and Jake Giddings, but welcomed Robbie Martin for his first appearance and Reece Conway back from suspension.

Ryan Maxwell’s side looked to assert themselves from the kick-off, and made all the early running, putting a Manor side who’d only won three games so far under pressure from the off.

And they were almost rewarded 20 minutes in. Ryan Ramsay’s perfectly weighted through ball was met by James Peagram was able to round the keeper, but was forced to shoot against the post by a retreating defender on the line.

In a half of few chances, Manor could have been ahead but a one-on-one effort was dragged wide, before Matt Brinklow had an effort cleared off the line following a Lee Flynn corner.

Martin came on for Brinklow at half time, and immediately began to pull the strings in midfield.

When the two sides met last season at Wadham Lodge Stow were awarded a penalty and the same thing happened this time, Peagram converting from the spot after Rheo Josephs forced the defender into a clumsy challenge near the by-line.

The visitors could have got back into the game ten minutes later when a free header from a corner was sent wide, but from then on Stow were in complete control.

Peagram thought he’d made it two with what looked like a routine tap-in but a miraculous save denied him, with Reece Conway heading wide straight after.

Ramsay and Gus Douglas both had good chances before Craig Pope put the game beyond doubt in the 88th minute, smashing in a towering header from a Christian Owusu corner.

Despite long stoppages in the second half, the referee only played a couple of minutes injury time, in which Stow controlled the game to victory.

Photos with thanks to Bill Badger.