REPORT | Southend 3-2 Walsall
Simon Cox’s late free-kick completed a remarkable turnaround for the Blues who came from 2-0 down to beat Walsall 3-2 at Roots Hall.
It looked like the Saddlers were going to pick up their first away win since Boxing Day after Franck Moussa scored twice against his former club – having been introduced from the bench for an early injury to Erhun Oztumer – putting Walsall 2-0 in front at the break.
Nile Ranger had missed a couple of good headed chances in the first half but managed to convert with his third chance, heading Southend back into the game just after the hour.
And with Southend throwing the kitchen sink at Walsall the Blues then grabbed an equaliser through an unlikely source, as Anton Ferdinand volleyed in after a poor clearance from a free-kick.
Phil Brown’s side continued to press for an unlikely winner and with seven minutes of normal time remaining Simon Cox came off the bench to curl in a free-kick from the edge of the area and grab all three points for the Blues.
After a poor first half, Brown was on the pitch in celebration as the full time whistle blew as Southend rose back into the play-off places with the win.
Off the back of Tuesday night’s comfortable win over bottom club Coventry City, Phil Brown made just the one change, giving Luke Amos his full debut in place of Theo Robinson.
The Blues started the brighter of the two sides and went close in just the fifth minute when Anthony Wordsworth hit a low drive that whizzed past Neil Etheridge’s right-hand post.
Nile Ranger had a couple of headed opportunities go astray as he first headed wide from a Stephen McLaughlin cross before having an even better chance go over after being picked out by John White.
The visitors were dealt an early blow as their top-scorer, Erhun Oztumer was substituted just a quarter of an hour in after he was unable to shake off an ankle injury picked up following a tackle by Ryan Inniss.
His replacement, former Blues player Franck Moussa, though made an immediate impact as within three minutes of his introduction he’d given the Saddlers the lead.
Full-back, Joe Edwards worked well to get free down the left and was able to cut the ball back to the Belgian who prodded the ball into the bottom corner to give Walsall the lead.
It was the first real opening the visitors had created and less than half an hour into the game Moussa had grabbed his and Walsall’s second to the dismay of the Roots Hall crowd.
Edwards was again the instigator as his cross from the left was poorly dealt with by Inniss, with the ball falling perfectly to Moussa who found the same corner that he did with his first goal.
Southend were in disarray, but they went close to getting a goal back before the break when Wordsworth’s sweetly struck volley had to be tipped over superbly by Etheridge.
Phil Brown made a double switch early in the second half, introducing Theo Robinson and former Walsall-man Jason Demetriou for Inniss and Amos, and if the Blues were to get anything from this game they had to score the next goal.
Just after the hour mark they did just that as Brown’s side grabbed a goal back via the head of Ranger, his first goal for the club at Roots Hall.
Having missed two headed chances in the first half, it was third time lucky for the Blues striker who was found after a quick free kick allowed Will Atkinson to dink in a cross for Ranger to head home.
The goal sparked the home side into life and Demetriou almost grabbed a spectacular equaliser against his former side as he let fly from 25-yards only for it to go narrowly wide.
Southend were now well on the front foot and a goal mouth scramble saw shots from Demetriou, Ranger and Atkinson blocked by the Saddlers’ defence, moments before Robsinon’s goal-bound effort was cleared from almost off the line by Edwards.
Robinson then forced another brilliant save from Etheridge as his curling effort was tipped over the bar by the Walsall stopper, before Blues made their final change, bringing on top-scorer Simon Cox for Atkinson.
And with less than 15 minutes remaining Southend were level. James O’Connor gave away a free kick on the Blues right for handball, with the ball being swung in by Wordsworth. The header clear wasn’t far enough, falling to Anton Ferdinand to volley beyond Etheridge to equalise.
The home side were now pushing for an unlikely winner and they were given a great chance with a free-kick that was awarded right on the edge of the area for a foul on Wordsworth by O’Connor.
Both Wordsworth and the substitute Cox stood over the ball, with the latter sending Roots Hall into wild celebrations as he curled his free-kick past the diving Etheridge and into the back of the net to complete the turnaround.
Blues XI | Smith, White, Coker, Wordsworth, McLaughlin, Atkinson (Cox 74’), Amos (Demetriou 51’), Leonard, Inniss (Robinson 51’), Ferdinand (C), Ranger. Subs Not Used: Thomspon, Timlin, Fortune, McGlashan
Walsall XI | Etheridge, Edwards, Laird, O’Connor, McCarthy, Dobson, Chambers (C), Oztumer (Moussa 15’ (Morris 81’)), Osbourne, Preston, Makris (Bakayoko 80’). Subs Not Used: MacGillivray, Jackson, Randall, Roberts
Referee: Robert Jones
Assistants: Louis Marks & Stephen Finch
Fourth Official: Robert Whitton
Southend United: Nile Ranger 63’, Anton Ferdinand 76’, Simon Cox 83’
Walsall: Franck Moussa 18’, 25’
Southend United: Ryan Inniss 49’, Ben Coker 84’