Southend United secured their place in the next round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy with a dramatic 2-1 victory against AFC Wimbledon at Roots Hall this evening.
After Frankie Merrifield’s first half goal gave the Dons the advantage, Gavin Tomlin and a Ryan Cresswell header deep into injury time booked Blues a place in the next round.
Southend might of felt they should’ve opened the scoring in the ninth minute after Tomlin’s effort eight yards out cannoned off the inside of the post after George Francomb’s clearance fell to the striker.
Blues continued to press with Michael Timlin’s free-kick from the right touchline nearly catching Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz out in goal, with the Venezuelan tipping the ball over the bar.
The home side came even closer to opening the scoring in the 19th minute with the woodwork denying Ryan Leonard after the midfielder connected well to Timlin’s chip with a smart header.
The Dons tried in vain to create their first chance of the match and did so in the 26th minute after Merrifield found space in the box but failed to hit the target, dragging his shot miserably wide of the goal.
With half time approaching Sean Clohessy tried his luck with a 25 yard effort which found its way through a flood of players before a smart save from Jaimez-Ruiz denied the right back.
Minutes later Tomlin tested the keeper with a low left footed drive after a clever pass from John Spicer gave the striker a sight of goal.
AFC Wimbledon were not on the back foot for long and took the lead in the 39th minute through Merrifield whose side footed effort beat debutant Paul Smith in the Southend goal.
Brendan Kiernan got in behind Clohessy down the left hand side before delivering a low cross which found Merrifield who precisely found the bottom corner of the net.
Sammy Moore nearly doubled the advantage for the away side with a ferocious 30 yard drive which nearly caught Smith by surprise before the keeper palmed the ball away to safety.
Blues brought the game back on level terms in the 59th minute through Tomlin’s first goal for the club from the penalty spot after Assombalonga was hacked down inside the area.
Superb play from the young striker down the left hand side gave him the opportunity to advance in the box before being fouled by Francomb.
Tomlin slotting home the penalty into the bottom left hand corner of the goal sending the keeper the wrong way.
With Southend buoyed from the equalising goal they nearly took the lead minutes later with Spicer’s half volley palmed away by the busy Jaimez-Ruiz as the young keeper kept the score level.
Blues pushed Ryan Cresswell up front with 10 minutes remaining and the tactical decision nearly paid off instantly with the burly makeshift striker heading agonisingly wide under pressure.
Smith came to Southend’s rescue in the 84th minute from point blank range after Harrison’s cross ricocheted off substitute Chris Barker towards goal.
Deep into injury time Southend stole victory with Cresswell scoring his second goal of the season, angling a header into the bottom corner of the net leaving the Dons keeper stranded.
Neil Harris’ cross was inch perfect finding the makeshift striker who secured Blues progress into the next round.
Southend: Smith, Clohessy, Straker (Benyon 70), Cresswell, Timlin, Phillips, Prosser, Leonard, Spicer, Assombalonga (Harris 70), Tomlin (Barker 79).
Subs not used: Bentley, Woodyard.