Blues back at Wembley following victory over Stevenage at Roots Hall!
Goals from Ryan Leonard, Stephen McLaughlin and Michael Timlin send Southend United on a march to the arch.
Southend United will face Wycombe Wanderers at Wembley Stadium on May the 23rd after a 4-2 aggregate win over Stevenage.
Blues boss Phil Brown made one change from the side that drew 1-1 at the Lamex on Sunday evening, with Joe Pigott replacing Stephen McLaughlin.
Southend were backed by a crowd of 8,239 home fans, and were hopeful of an early lead when Chris Day was forced to rush from his goal to head clear under pressure from Pigott.
Day was placed under pressure again in the 10th minute, when a high, hooked cross from Will Atkinson was fumbled by the Stevenage stopper, but no Blues players were on hand to convert.
David Worrall then raced clear down the left flank, beating his man before unleashing a right-footed effort on goal, only for Day to save as the Stevenage defence came to the rescue.
Ben Coker then drifted inside from the left, curling a low, right-footed attempt that bounced just before reaching Day. The Stevenage keeper was able to gather, albeit at the second attempt.
Blues went close again in the 20th minute, when Barry Corr knocked the ball down after a ball in from Worrall, with Pigott lashing his effort just wide of the post from 18 yards.
Boro then launched a counter-attack of their own, which concluded with Ben Kennedy darting away from the Blues defence before rifling an attempt into the side-netting of Dan Bentley’s goal.
Pigott and Worrall were then involved again in the 27th minute as Blues ramped up their efforts for a goal.
After winning the ball in the air, Pigott rolled it wide to Atkinson, who then played in Worrall. The former Bury man fired across the face of goal, with Day required to palm it away for a corner kick.
Kennedy then took aim again for the visitors, picking up the ball 30 yards from goal before unleashing a wild attempt that only succeeded in finding the Blues fans in the South Stand.
Coker then slotted a dangerous low ball across the face of goal, but the referee had adjudged Corr to have fouled a Stevenage defender as he slid for the ball.
Stevenage boss Graham Westley was forced into an early change, with Chris Whelpdale hobbling off to be replaced by Tom Pett.
Pigott continued to be involved, next sliding the ball through to Corr, who used the wet turf to his advantage.
The Irish forward dummied his initial attempt, causing an onrushing Stevenage defender, and goalkeeper Day, to go to ground. He then attempted to scoop the ball into the back of the net, only to see it clip the side-netting.
Michael Timlin, playing in protective head gear after a nasty clash of heads in the first leg, had Southend’s final chance of the first half, skying a side-footed attempt from just outside the area.
Southend were appealing for a penalty when Worrall turned on the edge of the area before hitting a volley which appeared to strike a Stevenage arm, but the referee waved away all protests.
Stevenage took the lead in fortunate circumstances in the 55th minute, when Dean Parrett’s fierce low shot from the edge of the area took a couple of deflections, before falling straight to Pett, who tapped in from close range.
Andy Bond then became the first name in the referee’s book, after shoving a leaping Worrall after he had headed the ball.
Day then pulled off a crucial save at the other end of the field, after Cian Bolger’s left-footed strike forced the Stevenage stopper into a diving save on his goal-line.
There was another appeal for a penalty in the 62nd minute, when Pigott dropped to the deck after seemingly being felled. This time the appeals were more vociferous, but met with the same rebuttal from the referee.
Brown then made his first change of the evening, withdrawing Atkinson in order to send on Stephen McLaughlin.
Day then pulled off another huge save, this time denying Pigott, who struck a fierce strike toward the far corner. This time the ball rebounded off a maroon Stevenage shirt and back into the grateful arms of the Stevenage goalkeeper.
Blues proceeded to level the score one minute later, when Corr slotted the ball out to the left for McLaughlin to run at the Stevenage defence. His dangerous ball across the area eventually came to Leonard, who took a touch before thumping the ball into the Stevenage net.
Stevenage then made their second change, with Ronnie Henry replacing Dave Martin in the 68th minute.
Roots Hall was now rocking, as Blues went in search of the goal that would send them in front.
Pigott was full of confidence, and let fly from 25 yards with 15 minutes remaining, although his dipping attempt failed to call Day into action.
Coker threatened to score Southend’s second when a shot from Worrall broke to him just outside the area, but his effort was rising and sailed over the Stevenage goal with 13 minutes remaining.
Westley was forced into his final change with nine minutes remaining, as Roarie Deacon came on to replace the injured Charlie Lee.
A game of pinball broke out in the Stevenage penalty area with five minutes remaining, as a McLaughlin corner was eventually poked wide by Pigott.
There were quick-fire yellow cards towards the end of normal time, with first Simon Walton and then Coker went into the book for a couple of late tackles.
A minimum of five minutes of added time was indicated by the fourth official, as both sides pushed for the match-winning goal.
Blues were presented with the opportunity to do so with just one minute of added time remaining, when the referee pointed to the penalty spot after Leonard went down under pressure from Pett.
Corr stepped up to take the kick, but saw his lifted attempt bounce behind off the crossbar.
That miss sent the game into extra-time, as both sides continued the fight for a place in the Wembley final on May the 23rd.
Stevenage kicked off extra-time, as Blues defended the goal in front of the South Stand.
McLaughlin raced down the left before floating a ball towards the head of Corr, but the header that followed sailed high and wide of Day’s goal.
Day then pulled off another massive save for the visitors, denying McLaughlin’s low effort after he had been put clean through on goal by Corr, who had dispossessed a Stevenage defender.
The Stevenage keeper continued to pull off a string of fine saves, next denying a rasping low drive from Corr with his heel, before Leonard’s effort deflected marginally over the goal.
Day’s form persisted, as he kept out a well-struck effort from Corr after the ball fell for in the penalty area with the Southend forward in space. He then steadied himself to catch Worrall’s attempt from the rebound.
That signalled the end of the first period of extra-time, with Pigott replaced by Myles Weston during the brief interval.
Blues finally went in front in the 108th minute, after a floated ball to the back post was nodded past Day by the head of Nottingham Forest loanee McLaughlin.
Weston could have made it 3-1 when he raced clear of the Stevenage back-line before prodding just past the post with goalkeeper Day surging towards him.
Phil Brown then made his final change, sending on Gary Deegan in place of David Worrall.
With one minute of regulation time remaining, Timlin put in two heroic challenges, the second of which he went for head-first.
There were to be three more minutes for Southend United to hold out, but they did all of that - and more.
Man of the hour Timlin booked Blues’ place at Wembley in the 121st minute, when he finished off a weaving move by placing an effort past Day, via the post.
Roots Hall erupted once more, with Timlin’s name being chanted by the entire ground.
As the final whistle was blown, Roots Hall gave another deafening roar, marking a historic night under the lights.
SOUTHEND UNITED: Bentley; White, Bolger, Barrett, Coker; Atkinson (McLaughlin - 62’), Leonard, Timlin, Worrall (Deegan - 113’); Corr, Pigott (Weston - 105’).
Unused Subs: T. Smith, Prosser, Payne, Cassidy.