Substitute Lee Barnard got Southend United’s 2014-15 campaign off to a winning start, as they beat Accrington Stanley 1-0 at the Crown Ground.Barry Corr’s second-half penalty was saved by Stanley goalkeeper Luke Simpson, but Barnard made no mistake when Blues were awarded another one.
Barnard’s goal came on his 100th appearance for the club and handed Blues all three points to kick-off their season.
There were two debutants in Blues’ line-up with Myles Weston and Shaquile Coulthirst both starting the game, while Cian Bolger made his first appearance following his permanent move from Bolton Wanderers.
David Worrall, Mads Ibenfeldt and Lee Barnard, all of whom joined permanently in the summer, were among the substitutes.
Blues’ boss Phil Brown made his intentions for the season clear from the off, with Coulthirst starting wide left and Weston joining Barry Corr in an attacking 4-4-2 formation.
Conor Clifford, picked in the midfield two with Ryan Leonard, had the first real chance of the game, but the 22-year-old’s volley from 20-yards was well kept out by Simpson.
The hosts would go even closer moments later, but James Gray’s cross, that deflected up off Bolger and over Daniel Bentley, came back off the post and away.
After good work from Josh Windass, Gray worked another opportunity for himself, but fired wide as Stanley got themselves on the front foot.
Blues kept them at bay, and as the half-hour mark approached, Ben Coker went close with a curling free-kick that went just wide of Simpson’s goal.
Weston would then have a great chance to give Blues the lead as Kevan Hurst played him through just before the break, but Simpson made an excellent save to keep it out.
Simpson would be called upon again as early as the second minute of the second-half, as Coulthirst won a penalty for Blues after being fouled by Dean Winnard.
Corr stepped up to take it, but Stanley’s goalkeeper guessed the right way and kept out the striker’s effort.
Barnard replaced Corr but it was strike partner Weston who had Blues’ next game.
The striker was found by Hurst was a neat reverse pass, but he couldn’t get enough on his curling effort and it was held by Simpson.
Blues would be looking to referee for another penalty with just under ten minutes to go and Andy Haines had no hesitation in pointing to the spot after Barnard had gone down.
The striker stepped up to take it and this time there was no mistake from Blues’ taker as he found the bottom corner from 12-yards.
It was the game’s decisive moment as Blues held on to make a winning start to their season, just as they had done 12 months previously.
Blues: Bentley; White, Prosser, Bolger, Coker; Hurst (Atkinson), Coulthirst (Worrall), Leonard, Clifford; Weston, Corr (Barnard).
Subs: P. Smith, Payne, Thompson, Ibenfeldt