A young Blues side went toe-to-toe with Ebbsfleet United on Saturday afternoon with the game ending in a 1-1 draw at Kuflink Stadium.
Matt Rush struck on the 35th minute to give Southend the lead, but Phil Brown’s side were pegged back in the 81st minute by Elliott Romain. It was a good workout for the youthful Blues side, who battled to earn a very respectable draw against National League South opposition.
There was, though, one negative of the afternoon which saw Tom Clifford forced to come off having only come on early in the second half, and he was seen leaving the pitch on crutches.
The game kicked off with a good tempo and both sides trying to carve out opportunities, and Brown’s side went close on eight minutes. An in swinging Ebbsfleet corner was well defended and the resulting ball was collected by Louis Walsh. He fed the ball to Trialist B on the halfway line, who went on a marauding run all to way into the opposition box and had his shot well saved by the Trialist goalkeeper.
Dennis Kutrieb’ side responded well to the early danger and, on the 17th minute, came close themselves. Jack Paxman tried working the ball through a crowd of Blues players. The resulting block sat up nicely for the midfielder who connected well with the ball on the volley, but his effort went narrowly over.
Just a minute later, the visitors went close to opening the scoring, as Walsh impressively held the ball up and laid it off to Trialist A on the left side Ebbsfleet’s penalty area. The Trialist hit a powerful strike which was deflected into the side netting.
Dominic Poleon, who lined up at striker for the home side was showing his football league pedigree with a lively performance, and he went close on the 23rd minute. After a physical battle with Tommy Davis, the ex-Southend striker snuck past the Blues defence and sent a shot from 18 yards narrowly wide of Andeng-Ndi’s goal.
11 minutes later, Poleon again showed good skill to back-heel the ball into the path of Craig Tanner, who crossed with a low-driven pass to Alfie Egan who shot inches over the crossbar.
But it was to be the visitors who went ahead, and the goal came in the 35th minute. A free kick was floated into Ebbsfleet’s penalty area and Trialist A smartly knocked the ball down to Rush. The 20-year-old Blues forward showed great strikers’ instincts to tuck home a tidy, low left-footed finish to put the young Southend side ahead.
As the first half came to a rather uneventful close, Rakish Bingham stung the palms of Andeng-Ndi from the edge of the box, but the goalkeeper held onto the ball well.
The beginning of the second half was much like the beginning of the first, a good tempo but little regarding real chances. Ebbsfleet won some free-kicks deep in Southend’s half but did little to threaten Andeng-Ndi in the Blues net.
The introduction Bobby Unwin nearly had immediate effect on the 61st minute, as he and Harry Phillips combined well to work the ball into the box, but the latter’s shot was well blocked.
The game had well and truly settled down and both goalkeepers had very little to do for much of the second half. But that wasn’t the case for Andeng-Ndi in the 81st minute, who had to pick the ball up from the back of his net. A very well worked move involving Lee Martin and Egan saw the ball flashed across Southend’s goal and waiting for it was Elliott Romain who fired an unstoppable shot past Southend’s goalkeeper.
As the score became level, the momentum of the game was altered, the last 10 minutes was largely dominated by Brown’s young side and on the 83rd minute, substitute O’Shane Stewart shot inches wide from the edge of the area.
Then, in the 89th minute, Jon Benton nearly won it for the away side, as he received the ball at the far post and his shot was brilliantly saved Ebbsfleet’s trialist goalkeeper.
The young Blues seemed to be comfortable until two late scares from the hosts. Martin’s long-range curling effort was superbly saved by Andeng-Ndi as the game drew to an eventful close, and from the resulting corner, Blues had to defend heroically to block an effort off the line.
Despite Ebbsfleet fans’ celebrations, the ball did not cross the line and Phil Brown’s Southend came away lots of positives to take from their 1-1 draw against the Fleet.
Southend: Andeng-Ndi, Howard, Sayers, Davis, Trialist B (Benton 78’), Gard (Stewart), Phillips (Brown 69’), Rush (Unwin 60'), Walsh (Clifford 60'), Egbri, Trialist A.
Southend - Rush (35')
Ebbsfleet - Romain (81')