Barry Corr equaliser sets up mouthwatering tie at Roots Hall on Thursday evening.
Barry Corr scored his 16th goal of the season in a 1-1 draw at Stevenage, which now makes Thursday night’s meeting at Roots Hall a ‘winner takes all’ encounter.
There were two changes from the side that played at Morecambe on the final day of the regular season, with Blues captain John White and Stephen McLaughlin replacing Gary Deegan and Jack Payne.
Southend were kicking towards the travelling 1,607 Southend fans in the first half, decked out in their away kit of yellow shirts, black shorts and black socks.
Stevenage applied some early pressure forcing two corner within the opening three minutes of the game, with Dan Bentley called upon to make an early save after a snapshot from Charlie Lee.
Play was then stopped after just five minutes following a clash of heads between Roarie Deacon and David Worrall.
Both players were okay to continue, as Blues grew into the game. Some fine work by Barry Corr created an opening for Michael Timlin, who could only side-foot wide of Chris Day’s goal.
After Worrall was fouled off the ball by Stevenage captain Bira Dembele, a whipped free-kick from Ben Coker found Corr, but the Southend frontman headed wide of goal.
A dangerous-looking cross-cum-shot from Dean Parrett then required Bentley to be alert to tip the ball behind in the 19th minute.
Chris Beardsley was next to try his luck for the hosts, but his low attempt was scuffed straight into the grateful arms of Bentley.
Corr then became the first name in referee Keith Stroud’s book in the 24th minute, after an off-the-ball incident with Dembele.
In the 30th minute, Bentley was called into action once again, this time saving after a side-footed attempt from Deacon.
Play was then stopped for eight minutes following a nasty clash of heads between Timlin and Dembele, that left both players bloodied and requiring treatment.
Timlin eventually walked off to be replaced by Gary Deegan, while Dembele played on despite the introduction of a stretcher.
McLaughlin nearly had a glorious chance to fire Southend in front in the 39th minute, but Day dropped quickly at his feet to gather after a flick-on from Corr.
Cian Bolger then followed Corr into Stroud’s book after taking away the standing leg of Stevenage striker Beardsley.
A looping ball across the Southend box was headed clear by Bolger, only for Dean Wells to flash an attempt across the face of Bentley’s goal.
Adam Barrett almost marked his 300th appearance for the club with a goal, when he arrived to power a headed attempt just over the Stevenage goal following a free-kick from Worrall.
There were nine minutes of added time to close the half, with Atkinson twice going close after being set-up, first by McLaughlin and then by Corr.
Southend’s best chance of the half came in the seventh minute of added time, when the ball fell to Worrall in front of goal. The winger’s low attempt was turned away from goal following a great reaction save by Day.
Roarie Deacon then picked up a yellow card after taking out White after the Southend skipper’s ball into the box.
Corr had the final chance of the first half, rising unmarked in the heart of the penalty area, only to glance his header wide of goal.
Stevenage boss Graham Westley made two changes at the interval, with Ben Kennedy and Jon Ashton replacing Deacon and Dembele respectively.
Southend started the first half on the front foot, winning an early corner, but Stevenage broke the deadlock in the 50th minute when Parrett curled a magnificent effort into the top corner from 25 yards.
Blues trailed for just ten minutes, with Corr levelling the scores in the 60th minute with his 16th goal of the season.
Corr arrived at the far post to power a header past Day after a great delivery into the box from a McLaughlin corner.
Worrall then became the third Southend player to go into the book after a foul in the 64th minute.
Southend’s next chance came courtesy of White, who saw his rasping low attempt from range deflect behind for a corner kick.
The corner came to nothing, but Worrall continued to threaten for Southend, with Day required to pluck a dangerous floated ball to the back post out of the air in the 75th minute.
Bentley came up with a big save for Blues in the 79th minute, when a marauding run from Stevenage substitute Kennedy had the Southend keeper punching the ball away.
Myles Weston then replaced McLaughlin as Phil Brown made his second substitution of the evening.
Stevenage manager Westley also made a change of his own, withdrawing Tom Pett and sending on Tom Conlon.
Brown’s final change came in the 83rd minute, as goalscorer Corr made way for Joe Pigott.
Deegan was yellow carded by referee Stroud just two minutes later, after bringing a halt to a Stevenage counter attack.
Weston led a promising break-out for Southend in the 88th minute, charging down the right flank before checking back and curling over a ball for Worrall.
Worrall went for a first time volley, but his fierce attempt flew narrowly wide of the far post.
There were four minutes of added time, and Weston wreaked havoc again with another run down the right, making his way into the penalty area before his powerful effort was parried by Day.
Pigott was attempting to capitalise after Day spilled the ball, but the veteran keeper gathered at the second attempt.
There was a late scare when Conlon slammed an effort across goal after a well-worked free-kick routine, but Southend held on to ensure a ‘winner takes all’ encounter at Roots Hall on Thursday night.
SOUTHEND UNITED: Bentley; White, Bolger, Barrett, Coker; Leonard, Atkinson, Timlin (Deegan - 35’); Worrall, Corr (Pigott - 83’), McLaughlin (Weston - 80’).
Unused Subs: T. Smith, Prosser, Payne, Cassidy.