Latics '˜nowhere near top gear yet'
Goals from Michael Jacobs, Nick Powell and Ivan Toney was enough to secure the three points that, together with Shrewsbury dropping two points at Plymouth, saw Latics reach the summit.
But Barry admits there is plenty more to come.
“We’re happy - it was a tough afternoon’s work and I don’t think we played as well as we can do,” said Barry, who was sent out to conduct media duties on behalf of Paul Cook.
“We never really got into top gear and never found our rhythm.
“It’s day like this where we have to grind out a win and it’s important.
“It was a competitive game, and Southend came with a good game-plan.
“While we were never in danger of losing the game, we were never at our best.
“It’s impossible to be at your best over 46 games so it’s about getting that habit of winning when you’re not at your best.”
Latics couldn’t even take advantage of the sending-off on the hour of Jermaine McGlashan - for a two-footed lunge on Callum Elder - until the game opened up in the last 10 minutes.
“Red cards can change games, and some spaces opened for us,” Barry recognised.
“It was a tough angle for us to see but it looked correct.
“Jermaine’s got no malice in him though but the decision has favoured us.”
Even with the one-man advantage, Latics almost conceded an equaliser in the final quarter when the visitors manufactured a three-on-three counter, which was only ended by a timely interception from centre-back Chey Dunkley.
“When they had a three-on-three, it was a worry but that’s football,” acknowledged Barry.
“We had to be on our guard especially when they had good players at the level like Nile Ranger or Simon Cox.
“We must respect them and, at 1-0, if you’re not going to take it to two or three then you must have that focus at the back to maintain that clean sheet.”
Powell’s goal - his seventh of the season - all-but secured the points with six minutes to go, and Barry admitted the ex-Manchester United man is on top of his game at the moment.
“Nick Powell is doing great, he’s been brilliant for us,” Barry added. “He’s sustaining his training and his discipline and on the back of that.
“He’s in good form, he’s doing his work off the pitch in the gym, and he’s enjoying his football.”