Southend and Crawley could not be separated as Phil Brown’s second spell as Blues boss began with a 0-0 draw at Roots Hall.
Both sides had good chances to pick up the win with the Red Devils going closest in the first-half through James Tilley who was only denied by a clearance on the goal line by Tyler Cordner.
The closest Southend came was when Nathan Ferguson struck the post shortly after the restart with a low drive, but Blues were indebted to goalkeeper Mark Oxley for a superb reaction save to keep out Ashley Nadesan up the other end as it finished goalless.
It had been all change at Roots Hall this afternoon after the departure of Mark Molesley earlier in the week, with Phil Brown back in the hot seat for what could only be described as a must-win game for Southend who knew that a win today could put them within two points of safety.
Despite a major change in the dugout, there wasn’t much of a change to the starting line-up with Ricky Holmes replacing Ashley Nathaniel-George the only change from the starting 11 that drew 1-1 at Morecambe on Tuesday night.
And Holmes was immediately in the thick of the action with his cross creating the first chance of the afternoon for either side, clipping the ball towards the far post only for Reeco Hackett-Fairchild to fluff his header from close range as it bundled wide.
That was the first chance of many in a frenetic opening 15 minutes which saw both sides have chances to break the deadlock, none better than James Tilley’s who finished a short-corner routine by hitting the target only for Tyler Cordner to clear the ball off the line.
The visitors had come into the game on a poor run of form having not won any of their last six, but they looked the likelier to score and should have done right on half-time as Ashley Nadesan looked destined to find the net only for him to misjudge his pass as he tried to play in Tilley for a tap in.
Goalless at the interval, Southend began the second-half brightly and were unlucky not to take the lead six minutes after the restart when Nathan Ferguson picked up the ball on the edge of the area and saw his low effort come back off the face of the post.
Blues then had an even better chance after Elvis Bwomono dug out a cross from the right. After evading sub Brandon Goodship, the ball got stuck under the feet of Hackett-Fairchild and by the time he got his shot away Morris had smothered the winger to make the save.
With Southend struggling to find the back of the net, Crawley remained in the hunt and they couldn’t believe they didn’t go in front after Nichols fizzed a low ball across the face of goal which was turned goalwards by Nadesan only for Mark Oxley to make a remarkable reaction save.
It was hard to believe Oxley had kept Nadesan out from almost point-blank range, but Blues were still in this and with 11 minutes remaining Brown threw his last roll of the dice by throwing on Terrell Egbri and James Olayinka to try and force a winner.
Olayinka did have a half-chance with a little over five minutes remaining after a free-kick fell to the Arsenal loanee on the edge of the box only for him to slice his effort wide before having another effort moments later that he blazed over the crossbar.
In the final minute of four added on, Southend had one final chance to steal it when a cross from the right found its way to Ferguson but he couldn’t get his shot away as Blues were made to settle for their seventh draw in their last 11 games.
Blues XI: Oxley, Bwomono, Hobson, Cordner, Dieng (Goodship 57’), Clifford, Hackett-Fairchild (Olayinka 79’), Halford (Acquah 68’), Demetriou (C), Holmes (Egbri 79’), Ferguson. Subs Not Used: Seaden, Rush, Hart
Crawley Town XI: Morris, McNerney, Nadesan (Rodari 90+2’), Davies, Nichols (C), Tunnicliffe, Tsaroulla, Maguire-Drew (Matthews 54’), Tilley, Hessenthaler (Powell 64’), J Wright. Subs Not Used: Nelson, Sesay, Khaleel
Referee: Charles Breakspear
Assistants: Joseph Stokes & Paul Kelly
Fourth Official: Paul Yates
Southend United: None
Crawley Town: None
Southend United: Greg Halford 50’, Jason Demetriou 70’, Tom Clifford 76’
Crawley Town: None