Southend United were held to a 1-1 draw by Oxford United at Roots Hall on Saturday afternoon in Sky Bet League 2.Jack Payne, making his first league start, opened the scoring to make it three goals in a week for the youngster, finding the far corner with a low drive from the edge of the box.
His goal would be cancelled out from the penalty spot, as Danny Hylton, the man who was brought down, stepped up to send Daniel Bentley the wrong way and earn the U’s a point.
Phil Brown handed Payne his first league start in one of three changes from the side that lost to Plymouth Argyle. Payne replaced Barry Corr while Shaq Coulthirst and Adam Thompson came in for Cian Bolger and Kevan Hurst.
It was Payne who had the first effort of the game, finding space when played in by Myles Weston, but his swerving 20-yard effort was pushed away by U’s goalkeeper George Long.
Oxford United’s goalkeeper was called into action again on the 15-minute mark. Good build-up play afforded John White time to cross to the back post for Coulthirst, but his header was well kept out by Long.
Blues had limited the visitors to very little in the way of chances inside the opening half-an-hour, but an error defensively afforded Will Hoskins a chance that he curled well wide of Bentley’s goal.
That lifted Michael Appleton’s side and moments later, they almost took the lead. Junior Brown did well to find space and cross for Johnny Mullins at the back post, but the defender’s header was well kept out by Bentley.
But just as Oxford seemed to be getting on top, Blues took the lead. Conor Clifford laid the ball back for Payne who opened up his body with a clever touch, and fired low into the far bottom corner past Long.
A loose ball from Hoskins almost helped Blues make it 2-0 soon after, but Weston’s effort, having raced past his man, was deflected just wide of the target.
The visitors started the second-half brightly, and Bentley was called into action twice in as many minutes to deny Danny Hylton. Blues’ stopper pushed away Hylton’s volley before tipping over a curling effort.
But Hylton would not be denied soon after as the visitors were awarded a penalty.
The striker was adjudged to have been fouled by Luke Prosser inside the box and he stepped up to send Bentley the wrong way and level the scores.
Neither side created too much in the way of clear cut chances after the equaliser, and despite eight minutes of additional time it ended level.
Blues: Bentley; White, Thompson, Prosser, Coker; Leonard (Hurst), Clifford, Atkinson, Payne (Worrall); Weston, Coulthirst (Corr).
Subs: P. Smith, Barnard, Ibenfeldt, Deegan