Southend United fell at the First Round stage of the Emirates FA Cup after Ruel Sotiriou’s late strike condemned Blues to a 1-0 defeat against Dover Athletic at the Crabble Athletic Ground.
After a first-half which saw clear chances at a premium, the home side would belie their position of 12th in the National League to look the most threatening of the two sides.
And after sub Nassim L’Ghoul had gone closest with a header straight at Nathan Bishop, another sub Sotiriou would put the non-league side into Monday night’s draw with a goal six minutes from time.
The final whistle drew huge cheers from the home side who’d beaten a tier-three side for the first time while defeat for Blues piled more misery on Sol Campbell’s side.
Having yet to pick up a win since joining the club, Campbell picked a strong Southend line-up for the trip to the Crabble Athletic Ground, making just the two changes from Tuesday night.
In came Ethan Hamilton and Stephen McLaughlin who both returned from suspension for Blues who created a couple of early opportunities to open the scoring on the Kent coast.
Timothee Dieng, who was wearing the captain’s armband for the afternoon, had a great chance from Isaac Hutchinson’s whipped corner but he failed to connect with his header.
McLaughlin then had a chance go begging when Elvis Bwomono bombed down the right, cutting the ball back for the winger who took a touch only to fire well over the crossbar.
Dover’s attacking threat all looked to be going through their 6ft3in top scorer Inih Effiong and he created a chance for Jai Reason with a knockdown which Reason blazed over.
Reason then forced a really good save out of Nathan Bishop with a low drive from outside the penalty area which needed tipping around the post at full stretch by the Blues goalkeeper.
The home side would end the half strongly and went within inches of going in front at the break when Jack Munns’ corner deflected towards goal with Blues needing Tom Hopper to clear off the line.
Neither side could really get going after the half-time break but it was Dover who had the better of the scarce chances, first firing an effort over the bar from outside the box.
Effiong would be key again to the home side as he held the ball up for Bobby-Joe Taylor, teeing the ball back for the Dover full-back who saw his effort blocked by some last-ditch Blues defending.
From the resulting corner, Paul Rooney climbed highest to beat Bishop to the aerial delivery but the centre-back powerful header flew over the crossbar and into the terrace behind the goal.
In an attempt to grab a winner, Sol Campbell threw on Simon Cox and Emile Acquah with a little over 15 minutes remaining but Andy Hessenthaler’s side continued to look the most likely to nick it.
Substitute Nassim L’Ghoul would see a glorious chance go begging, heading Aaron Simpson’s cross straight at Bishop but it was another substitute who would write the headlines moments later.
Ruel Sotiriou, who had only just come on, bundled Harry Lennon to the ground before running through and fizzing his shot past Bishop and put Dover minutes away from a cup upset.
Southend immediately threw everything forward trying to force an equaliser and they had a huge appeal for a penalty turned down after Bwomono appeared to be scythed down in the box.
The appeals though were to no avail as Dover went up the other end and rattled the crossbar with a long-range effort from Reason which would have killed off Southend’s hopes had it gone in.
Half-chances came and went for Simon Cox and Isaac Hutchinson but Blues couldn’t find a breakthrough as Dover caused the first big cup upset of this year’s Emirates FA Cup.
Dover Athletic XI: Mersin, Taylor, Doe, Reason, Woods (C), Effiong, Munns, Rooney, Gobern (L’Ghoul 73’), Rigg (Sotiriou 81’), Simpson. Subs Not Used: Worgan, Cumberbatch, Bedford, Jeffrey, Ratti
Blues XI: Bishop, Bwomono, Ralph, Dieng (C), Hopper, McLaughlin (Acquah 73’), Goodship (Cox 73’), Hamilton, Shaughnessy (Kiernan 60’), Lennon, Hutchinson. Subs Not Used: Oxley, Milligan, Demetriou, Taylor
Referee: David Rock
Assistants: Mike Desborough & Leigh Crowhurst
Fourth Official: Dean Whitestone
Dover Athletic: Ruel Sotiriou 84’
Southend United: None
Dover Athletic: Bobby-Joe Taylor 21’, Paul Rooney 71’
Southend United: Elvis Bwomono 14’, Stephen McLaughlin 17’, Timothee Dieng 90+2’