REPORT | Southend v Crewe AlexandraJack Payne rescued a late point for the Blues as they drew 1-1 with Crewe Alexandra at Roots Hall.
A George Cooper free kick had given the Railwaymen the lead, but an injury time penalty from Payne ensured the honours were shared.
Phil Brown made four changes for this one with Thompson, McQueen, Deegan and Mooney replacing O’Neill, Timlin, Payne and Hunt.
The Blues started the game as they meant to go on, pressing Crewe high up the pitch, but it was the visitors who nearly took a shock lead, when Cooper’s shot from the edge was deflected within a whisker of the post.
For all their possession, Southend were struggling to find that killer ball to create that elusive clear-cut chance.
Crewe were having no such difficulty in that respect, and would be kicking themselves that they did not take the lead after 20 minutes.
Jones’ free-kick from the left was curled beautifully in to the area to find Haber at the backpost. Bentley saved the striker’s header at point-blank range before Nugent missed from six-yards out with the goal at his mercy.
It was the Railwaymen who continued to look the likely to score as Hitchcock’s header looped just over the bar after beating Bentley to the ball on 23’.
The away side continued to grow in confidence as Blues fans and players alike grew increasingly frustrated.
The game was crying out for something to happen, and the referee duly obliged on 38 minutes as he gave the Blues a penalty after Mooney was brought down by Turton in the box.
Barnett was the one to step up, and he saw his spot-kick denied by Garratt as the keeper got down well to his right to save and hold the ball.
Half-time – Southend United 0-0 Crewe Alexandra.
It was much of the same for the Blues in the opening exchanges of the second period, enjoying much of the possession, but none of the chances.
Mooney and McQueen were replaced by Loza and Worrall just short of the hour-mark as Phil Brown looked to add a spark to the attack.
It was nearly to be a stroke of genius, as a Worrall free kick from the edge of the box went up and over the wall, but just wide of the left-hand post.
Worrall continued to prove a threat, taking the game to Alex on the right and whipping dangerous balls in to the area.
The home support did their best to rally the players on to get the opener, but the tempo just wouldn’t rise where it mattered.
Phil Brown looked to Jack Payne to try unpick the locks of the Crewe back-line as the playmaker was introduced to the proceedings on 78’.
The game grew stale, desperately looking for a lease of life as the clock ran down, and unfortunately for the Blues, it was the away side who provided it in the 86th minute.
Coker gave a free kick away for a foul on Cooper on the edge of the box. Cooper stepped up to the take it, and flashed a left-footed curler in to the right-hand side of the net.
Southend, just as they had done all night, struggled to respond to the setback, but were given hope by the referee as he gave them their second penalty of the night as Nugent brought down Loza in stoppage time.
This time, they weren’t to be denied as Payne’s spot kick squeezed in to right to rescue a point for the Blues
Southend United: Bentley, Thompson, Barratt ©, Bolger, Coker, Deegan, Atkinson (Payne 78’), Wordsworth, McQueen (Worrall 58’), Mooney (Loza 58’), Barnett.
Subs: Worrall, Timlin, Payne, Smith, Hunt, Loza, Kamara.
Crewe Alexandra: Garratt, Turton, Guthrie, Nugent, Haber, Inman, Fox ©, Jones, Cooper, Hitchcock, Bakayogo.
Subs: Ray, Richards, Saunders, NG, Ainley, Kirk, Howell
Attendance: 5,444 (117 Crewe)