by Scott Hatley
Southend missed another opportunity to overtake Millwall in the race for a play-off place as Junior Brown’s header secured Shrewsbury a 1-0 win at Greenhous Meadow.
After a nervy first half which the home side began brightly, the Blues grew into the game late on in the half before taking that momentum into the second period.
But Southend couldn’t carve out anything clear-cut and were punished when Jordan Brown was found from a corner to head Shrewsbury towards safety.
With Millwall losing 3-0 at home to Oxford United, Phil Brown threw on Jermaine McGlashan, Theo Robinson and Marc-Antoine Fortune in a desperate effort to find an equaliser.
However, try as they might, Southend couldn’t break down a stubborn Shrews back-line who held firm to prevent the Blues from getting the point they needed to return to the top six.
The defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for Southend who have now lost four of their last five games, failing to capitalise on Millwall’s second successive defeat, meaning the race for the play-offs will go down to the final day.
Phil Brown was forced into making one change following the defeat to MK Dons with John White coming in for the injured Anthony Wordsworth who missed out with a hamstring injury.
Shrewsbury themselves were dealt a huge blow just before kick-off as their top goal scorer Louis Dodds was injured in the warm-up and was replaced in the starting line-up by Bryn Morris.
The Shrews began the game confidently and had an early penalty shout waved away before a cross from Joe Riley almost wormed its way into the bottom corner following some confusion in the area.
News of Millwall going 2-0 down early on at home to Oxford quickly filtered through to the almost 1300 Southend fans who were making plenty of noise despite Southend’s auspicious start.
Stefan Payne looked to quickly quieten those Blues fans behind the goal by forcing a decent save out of Christian Walton low down to his right-hand side.
Payne was being Southend’s chief tormentor and after Adam Thompson slipped inside the penalty area the front man had another low shot at goal well saved by Walton who got down sharply.
The Blues’ best chance of the half came on the half-hour mark when Nile Ranger won the ball inside the Shrews box, teeing up Ryan Leonard whose shot spun agonisingly wide off the deflection of Junior Brown.
Southend were beginning to build some momentum, and as the half time whistle loomed Will Atkinson was slipped in by Simon Cox but couldn’t prod the ball beyond the sprawling Jayson Leutwiler as it remained goalless at the break.
Having ended the first half brightly, Southend began the second half with Ranger hitting the side netting within two minutes of the restart before shooting over from the edge of the area.
The Blues continued to put the pressure on and Leutwiler almost made a mess of a low shot from Cox that bounced off the shins of the goalkeeper before eventually being cleared.
Shrewsbury had staved off the best that Southend could muster early in the second half and were rewarded by grabbing the opening goal of the game through Brown.
A corner from the Shrewsbury left was curled into the danger zone and Brown stooped low to head the ball beyond Walton and give the home side the lead.
Jermaine McGlashan was immediately introduced for Southend, followed quickly by Theo Robinson and Marc-Antoine Fortune as Phil Brown went for all-out attack in search of an equaliser.
As news came through of Millwall going three down, it was starting to look like Southend were going to let the Lions off the hook once more in the race for the final play-off place.
McGlashan had a penalty shout turned down and Robinson had a shot deflected tamely into the arms of Leutwiler as Southend threw the kitchen sink at Shrewsbury.
Southend had another penalty appeal waved away before Adam Thompson’s header down was prodded wide by the outstretched boot of John White as time started to run out on the Blues.
The visitors continued to press hard for an equaliser and had five minutes added on at the end of the half to steal a point which would have seen them return to the top six.
And in the final minute of the five added on the ball fell on the edge of the area to Jason Demetriou, but the full back’s shot was blocked into the thankful arms of Leutwiler as Shrewsbury held on.
The full time whistle sparked a pitch invasion from the home fans, with the win all-but securing Shrewsbury's League One status for another season, but it was a tough loss for Southend who now must go to the final day at home to Bury to try and capture that elusive sixth spot.
Shrewsbury Town XI | Leutwiler, Riley, Sadler, Whalley, Ogogo (C), Brown, Yates (Deegan 79’), Morris, Nsiala, Rodman (Humphrys 79’), Payne. Subs Not Used: Halstead, McGivern, Smith, Leitch-Smith, El-Abd
Blues XI | Walton, White, Thompson, Timlin (Fortune 70’), Cox, McLaughin (McGlashan 65’), Atkinson, Leonard, Demetriou, Ferdinand (C), Ranger (Robinson 70’). Subs Not Used: Bexon, O’Neill, Amos, Hines,
Referee: Darren England
Assistants: Matthew Parry & Steven Plane
Fourth Official: Alan Clayton
Shrewsbury Town: Junior Brown 64’
Southend United: None
Shrewsbury Town: Jayson Leutwiler 84’
Southend United: None