Southend United live to fight another day as Matt Rush’s first senior goal secured a 2-1 win for Blues against Leyton Orient at Roots Hall to keep their survival hopes alive.
Phil Brown’s side knew that anything less than a win would have sent them down and they took the lead late in the first-half when Tyler Cordner nodded in Ricky Holmes’ corner.
It was a lead though that wouldn’t last long as Louie Dennis’ deflected effort levelled things up before the interval before Rush popped up with 14 minutes remaining to slot home the winner for Blues.
The win, combined with Barrow’s 1-0 defeat at Tranmere, means Southend remain in the fight for survival and will be keeping a close eye on Barrow’s game in hand against Forest Green Rovers on Tuesday ahead of their trip to Barrow next weekend.
The scenario ahead of today was simple: win or Blues would be playing in the National League next season. That was what faced Phil Brown’s side this afternoon as they welcomed Leyton Orient to Roots Hall who themselves had felt the pain of relegation from the Football League in 2017.
Knowing it was win or bust, Brown made four changes to his side from the one that lost to Colchester last time out. In came Tyler Cordner, Terrell Egbri, Kyle Taylor and Timothee Dieng and it was Dieng who had the game’s first chance four minutes in with a flicked header that went wide.
That early chance was one of few for either side in the first-half. That was until the 39th minute when Orient should have broken the deadlock when Dan Kemp’s deflected cross found its way through to Sam Ling who from inside the six-yard box managed to hit the crossbar.
Blues had been spared and they made the most of that reprieve by going in front just three minutes later as Cordner scored his first goal for the club. Ricky Holmes’ corner from the Blues left was floated into the box allowing Cordner to charge in and head home from close range.
Southend though were unable to hold onto that lead for long as Orient equalised on the stroke of half-time. James Brophy’s deep free-kick was headed down by Ouss Cisse to Louis Dennis who fired in, via a deflection off Cordner, to level things up.
A second for the visitors after the restart would have all but spelt the end for Blues and Orient went desperately close to going in front when Conor Wilkinson’s cross towards Danny Johnson was diverted towards goal only for Mark Oxley to scramble it clear with his feet.
As news came through of Barrow trailing at Tranmere, Blues created a flurry of chances with Greg Halford’s flicked header having to be clawed away by Lawrence Vigouroux before a mazy run from Louis Walsh ended in his deflected cross being cleared off the line by Cisse.
Vigouroux was needed again to keep out Matt Rush’s header moments later, but he was unable to keep the young striker out a second time as the sub outmuscled his marker to break through on goal and slide the ball under the advancing Vigouroux to put Blues back in front.
The goal was Rush’s first senior strike for the club and what a vital time to score it. Blues now just needed to hold on for the final quarter of an hour, though their task would have been made a whole lot easier had Vigouroux not saved a curling effort from Louis Walsh with five minutes remaining.
Orient threw everything they could forward to try and break Southend hearts and had a great chance fall to Wilkinson late on that was smothered by Oxley but Blues held on for a vital victory to keep their survival hopes alive.
Blues XI: Oxley, Bwomono, Cordner, Dieng (Halford 26’), Egbri, Hackett-Fairchild (Walsh 70’), K Taylor, Holmes (Rush 54’), Hart, Ferguson (Hobson 70’), White (C). Subs Not Used: Seaden, Olayinka, Kyprianou
Leyton Orient XI: Vigouroux, Ling, Happe, Wilkinson, Kemp, Brophy, Dennis (McAnuff 68’), Akinola (Abrahams 85’), Kyprianou (Cisse 44’), Freeman (Clay 46’), Johnson (Sotiriou 69’). Subs Not Used: Sargeant, Turley
Referee: Trevor Kettle
Assistants: Justin Amey & Robert Dabbs
Fourth Official: Leigh Crowhurst
Southend United: Tyler Cordner 42’, Matt Rush 76’
Leyton Orient: Louis Dennis 45+3’
Southend United: Sam Hart 80’, Louis Walsh 82’, Tyler Cordner 83’
Leyton Orient: None