Southend United’s participation in the Essex Senior Cup was ended at the Quarter-Final stage by Ryman League Division One North club Waltham Abbey in a rearranged clash at Great Wakering Rovers' Burroughs Park.
Blues were the last remaining Football League side in the competition, but they failed to set up a Semi-Final meeting with AFC Hornchurch despite substitute Jack Payne giving them a 64th minute advantage. Instead another replacement, Abbey’s James Peagram, made a telling contribution as his 70th minute free-kick was parried out for Christian Wheeler to convert and then he netted the winner himself from another set-piece ten minutes from time.
A strong Southend side felt aggrieved at the manner of the underdogs’ winner, although Abbey could point to a committed and determined performance as justification for their success a mere 48 hours after they had lost 3-1 in a league match at Heybridge Swifts. The Abbotts started the game well, shaking off any perceived weariness with Joe Pearman’s 20-yard drive into the gloves of Daniel Bentley.
Blues quickly switched play to the opposite end, and a short corner allowed Mitchell Pinnock to pick out Freddy Eastwood at the back post with a delightful inswinging cross. Unfortunately the forward was unable to direct his downward header the correct side of the left-hand upright.
Louis Baucutt was well-placed to make a good block from Dean Green’s thunderous finish in the 16th minute before Pinnock, who along with Jack Paxman stood out from a Shrimpers perspective, almost broke the deadlock midway through the first half. The winger controlled the ball on the flank and shaved the near post with a viciously swerving strike delivered with the outside of his left boot.
The two teams would continue to trade chances in the lead-up to half-time. Abbey’s Tom Laxton slipped Ayrton Coley in on 27 minutes only for his drive to be deflected past the far post whilst Bentley confidently clutched Pearman’s stinging shot at one end, with Pinnock twice seeing efforts blocked and Paxman smashing a dipping attempt narrowly over the crossbar at the other.
Waltham Abbey began the second period in similarly impressive fashion to the first as Laxton trapped a high ball and set up Tom Bruno, who could only scoop his 48th-minute attempt over. However, Southend edged in front seven minutes after Payne and Seedy Njie had been introduced as substitutes for Anthony Straker and Eastwood respectively.
Payne has been in sharpshooting form for the club’s Under-18 side this season, and he grabbed a goal for the second-string in unconventional fashion. Having ghosted in at the back post, the diminutive playmaker stooped low to head Elliot Benyon’s right-wing centre home past Whincup.
The lead lasted just six minutes. Peagram, who had only entered the fray seconds before his team had gone behind, stepped up to swing a 28-yard free-kick around the defensive wall, and Bentley was called upon to claw the ball impressively away from goal. Unfortunately it dropped into the path of Wheeler, who gleefully thrashed the spheroid into the top right-hand corner.
Ten minutes later, the non-Leaguers stole the lead. Confusion reigned as an assistant referee appeared to flag for an indiscretion by Kieran Ogontioya. Play continued as the ball was rolled back towards Bentley by a defender but, as he was about to deliver the kick, Ogontioya threatened to challenge him. Bentley picked it up and, after the referee had consulted with his assistant, an indirect free-kick was awarded for the back-pass. The ball was laid off from seven yards out to Peagram, who somehow squeezed his powerful finish through the crowd of defenders stationed on the goal-line.
Once they had regained their composure, Southend almost equalised with Ryan Auger’s swirling cross just lacking a vital touch that would have diverted it inside the left-hand post and Neil Harris thrashing a strong shot straight at Whincup in stoppage time. In between, Bentley made an outstanding save with his left leg to keep out Louis Bristow’s goalbound attempt, but that wasn’t enough to prevent Blues from slipping out of the BBC Essex-supported competition after this last eight encounter.
Southend United: Daniel Bentley, Ryan Auger, Anthony Straker (Jack Payne, 57), Jack Paxman, Josh Banton, Louis Baucutt, Neil Harris, John Spicer, Elliot Benyon, Freddy Eastwood (Seedy Njie, 57), Mitchell Pinnock. Substitutes not used: Ted Smith, Jack Edwards,
Goal: Payne (64).
Cautioned: Benyon (81, dissent), Pinnock (85, dissent).
Waltham Abbey: Jake Whincup, Chris Sargent, Matt Bedford, Christian Wheeler, Matt Attard, Joe Pearman, Tom Laxton, Tom Bruno, Billy Jones (James Peagram, 63), Dean Green (Kieran Ogontioya, 71), Ayrton Coley (Louis Bristow, 71). Substitute not used: Jack Daveney.
Goals: Wheeler (70), Peagram (80).