REPORT | Southend 1-0 Bury
Stephen McLaughlin’s first-half strike was enough for Southend to beat Bury 1-0 at Roots Hall, but not quite enough for the Blues to make the play-offs.
Millwall’s dramatic 4-3 win at Bristol Rovers meant that they sealed the final play-off place ahead of Phil Brown’s side who missed out by a point.
In a strange afternoon where the atmosphere in Roots Hall went from sheer jubilation when Bristol Rovers levelled to utter dejection when Millwall won overshadowed a solid Blues performance.
Southend were comfortable in the end with Bury failing to truly test Christian Walton in the Blues goal, but results elsewhere meant the Shakers had survived relegation.
The Blues’ match-winner came in the form of Stephen McLaughlin as his half-volley midway through the first half was enough to seal the points for Southend, but it was nothing more than consolation.
Phil Brown’s side went into the final game of the season knowing they had to better Millwall’s result to make next week’s play-offs and the Blues boss made two changes, bringing in Luke O’Neill and Marc-Antoine Fortune for the injured pair of Anthony Wordsworth and Nile Ranger.
In just the third minute, Ryan Leonard struck the foot of the post from the edge of the area but the mood at Roots Hall dropped when news of Millwall’s early goal at Bristol Rovers filtered through.
Southend still had time to put pressure on the Lions and they had a good chance to open the scoring when Simon Cox carried the ball from the half way line only to drag his shot wide.
But the Blues did take the lead midway through the first half when Jason Demetriou’s cross was poorly cleared by Leon Barnett, allowing Stephen McLaughlin to find the bottom corner with a half-volley.
Despite the goal, a second goal for Millwall had left the crowd in sombre mood until news of Bristol Rovers getting one back gave the crowd a huge lift as they began to believe again.
That belief lasted a matter of moments as Millwall restored their lead, but Southend still had work to do to keep Bury at bay.
The Shakers came to Roots Hall knowing they needed a point to guarantee their League One status and they almost stole an equaliser when Anton Ferdinand’s header just made its way through to Christian Walton with James Vaughan ready to pounce.
Southend went in search of an early second goal to kill the game off in the second half and they had a couple of good opportunities fall to Marc-Antoine Fortune and Leonard.
A mix-up in the Bury backline allowed Fortune to get through on goal but his effort was superbly blocked by the recovering Cameron Burgess, before Leonard’s drive from long range had to be parried away by Joe Murphy with no one in a Blue shirt around to follow up.
The game, as well as the crowd, had gone flat as it looked like Southend’s hopes of making the play-offs was fading but they still needed to get across the line with such a slender lead.
Fortune should have wrapped up the points when his shot on goal was parried by Murphy. Fortune then got to the rebound with Murphy on the deck but he tried to chest it down rather than head it over the stranded Bury ‘keeper.
Before the Southend fans could air their frustration, news came through that Bristol had equalised against Millwall meaning the Blues were in the play-off places for the first time in the afternoon, sending Roots Hall into a frenzy.
But in a crazy afternoon of ups and downs for the Blues fans, news of Millwall’s fourth quickly brought the bouncing Roots Hall back down to earth with a bump.
Southend saw out the six minutes of added on time without any problems to win the game 1-0, but the full-time whistle at Bristol Rovers spelt the end of their play-off dreams.
Blues XI | Walton, Thompson, O’Neill (Amos 79’), Timlin, Cox, McLaughlin, Atkinson, Fortune (Robinson 82'), Leonard, Demetriou, Ferdinand (C). Subs Not Used: Bexon, White, McGlashan, Hines, Nouble
Bury XI | Murphy, Leigh, C Burgess, Kay (C), Tutte, Pope (Miller 50’), Vaughan, Barnett, Moore, Lowe (Mayor 55’), Caddis. Subs Not Used: Williams, S Burgess, Cameron, Brown, Ferry
Referee: Gavin Ward
Assistants: Marc Wilson & Thomas Harty
Fourth Official: Nigel Lugg
Southend United: Stephen McLaughin 22’
Southend United: Luke Amos 90+4’
Bury: Cameron Burgess 26’, Leon Barnett 57’, Taylor Moore 59’, Danny Mayor 64’