Nathan Ralph’s late strike earned Blues a deserved first point of the season as they drew 1-1 against Crawley Town at the People’s Pension Stadium.
Ashley Nadesan had given the home side the lead after a well-worked free-kick routine led to Jake Hessenthaler picking out Nadesan on the edge of the area who then fired low past Mark Oxley midway through the first-half.
Southend rallied and would control possession as the game went on with Ralph and Emile Acquah having great chances go begging before Ralph would pop up with the equaliser with six minutes of the game remaining in West Sussex.
A cross from the right from Terrell Egbri picked out the run of Ralph. The full-back though had plenty to do to convert the cross, stretching out a left foot to brilliantly volley the ball into the back of the net and grab Southend their first point of the season.
The point lifted Southend off the foot of the League Two table and gives Molesley and his side something to build on ahead of back-to-back home league games against Exeter City and Cheltenham Town.
Molesley made two changes from the side that lost 2-1 against Morecambe last time out with Harry Lennon and Tom Clifford coming in to replace Richard Taylor and Jordan Green, while the returning Timothee Dieng was fit enough again to make the bench.
Crawley made the one change, with Jake Hessenthaler coming in for Dannie Bulman, as they looked for a third straight win in the league, and they almost went in front inside 20 seconds after Ashley Nadesan got through only to shoot wide under pressure from Clifford.
Elvis Bwomono had Southend’s first chance on goal, forcing former Blues goalkeeper Glen Morris into action before Crawley went close themselves after Josh Doherty’s cross across the face of goal was agonisingly out of reach of the outstretched leg of Tom Nichols.
The home side though would make the breakthrough midway through the first-half as a training ground free-kick routine led to Nadesan scoring. With everyone expecting the ball to come into the box, Hessenthaler played it out of Nadesan on the edge of the area to fire home.
Nadesan’s strike had put Crawley momentarily top of the league and they had a great charge to double their advantage when Nadesan turned provider. His quick flick set Tyler Frost clean through only for Mark Oxley to superbly spread himself to make the save and prevent Crawley going two up.
Southend rallied and had a handful of chances to level before the interval. Nathan Ralph had the best of the chances created, first slicing wide after being picked out by Brandon Goodship inside the area before heading over a Clifford free-kick.
Blues continued to be in the ascendency in the second-half and had their best chance of the game fall to Emile Acquah shortly after the restart. Neat interplay between Clifford, Goodship and Acquah allowed the striker to get goal side only for Morris to make a vital save.
Eager to play on the front foot, Southend controlled the bulk of possession as they searched for an equaliser but they were almost caught out when Nichols found Frost with a low ball into the box only for the Crawley number 11 to fire high and wide of Oxley’s goal.
Having survived the scare, Blues continued to press for an equaliser and Goodship stung the palms of Morris with a low drive, and Southend would get what their second-half display had thoroughly deserved as they equalised with six minutes remaining through Ralph.
Terrell Egbri’s cross from the right picked out ethe run of Ralph who had snuck in at the far post, and despite having to stretch every sinew to get to the ball the Blues full-back managed to connect with a superb volley to beat Morris and put Southend on the verge of their first point of the season.
To do that, Southend just had to hold on in the final moments but Crawley threw everything forward to try and steal the points and Blues had to defend doggedly in injury-time to prevent Crawley from stealing the win with Oxley saving late on from Ricardo German as Molesley picked up a deserved first point as Blues boss.
Crawley Town XI: Morris, Doherty, Francomb (C), Nadesan, Frost, Ferguson, Allarakhia (Powell 60’), Nichols (German 83’), Tunnicliffe, Craig, Hessenthaler. Subs Not Used: McGill, McNerney, Davies, Matthews, Galach
Blues XI: Oxley, Bwomono, Ralph, Hobson, Goodship (Gard 90’), Egbri, Clifford (R Taylor 74’), Acquah, Demetriou (C), Lennon (Dieng 76’), K Taylor. Subs Not Used: Seaden, Phillips, Rush, Kyprianou
Referee: Brett Huxtable
Assistants: Nicholas Cooper & Marc Wilson
Fourth Official: Michael Chard
Crawley Town: Ashley Nadesan 21’
Southend United: Nathan Ralph 84’
Crawley Town: Tony Craig 90+4’
Southend United: None