Southend United began life in the Vanarama National League with a 1-0 win over King’s Lynn Town at The Walks Stadium with Sam Dalby’s early strike the difference between the two sides.
Dalby scored eight minutes in for the visitors who were backed by over 1,000 raucous Blues fans who were able to attend their first away game since February 2020.
The hosts finished the game with 10 men after Junior Morias was sent off, and the Linnets were indebted stopper Paul Jones for keeping the scoreline down to one with the King's Lynn goalkeeper pulling off a string of impressive saves.
Phil Brown gave full debuts to six of his nine summer signings with Steve Arnold, Abu Ogogo, Josh Coulson, Jack Bridge, Rhys Murphy and Sam Dalby all making the starting 11. Loanees Hamzad Kargbo and Matt Dennis made the bench, while James Dunne missed out through injury.
And Blues’ first venture into the Vanarama National League got off to the perfect start as Sam Dalby opened the scoring for the visitors early on at The Walks Stadium. Harry Phillips’ free-kick found its way out to Jack Bridge whose low cross was stabbed home by Dalby after just eight minutes.
That lead could, and arguably should, have been doubled two minutes later when Nathan Ferguson picked up the ball on the edge of the box, but the midfielder was unable to trouble Paul Jones in the King’s Lynn goal as he dragged his effort just wide.
After a bright start for the visitors, The Linnets grew into the game and had a good chance to equalise when Ross Barrows’ cross was headed over by Tyler Denton before new signing Junior Morias saw a couple of efforts fly off target.
Southend though ended the first-half the stronger and went close to doubling their lead just before the interval when a Jason Demetriou cross from the right was just out of reach of Bridge who’d snuck in at the far post.
The visitors looked to press home their advantage in the second-half and had a flurry of chances fall to Rhys Murphy who was first denied by the outstretched boot of Kyle Callan-McFadden before slicing a volley wide from 12 yards minutes later with the goal at his mercy.
Quick thinking from Steve Arnold then set Murphy free down the left, with the striker cutting inside and forcing a save from close range from Jones. Dalby was following up, but he couldn’t divert the rebound on target as King’s Lynn clung on.
But completely against the run of play, The Linnets created their best chance of the afternoon as Gold Omotayo was picked out by a right-wing cross only for his header to be superbly saved low to his left by Arnold.
Blues needed a second and Ferguson went close with a toe-poked effort that was well saved by Jones, but with little over five minutes remaining the pressure was lifted as Morias was shown a straight red card for a stamp on Demetriou.
Blues peppered the Linnets goal looking for a second and sub Matt Dennis was denied from close range by a brilliant one-handed save from Jones before the in-form Jones denied Nathan Ralph with a low shot which rebounded out to Demetriou whose header clipped the top of the crossbar.
There was still a chance for King’s Lynn to nick a point at the death though as Barrows’ header came back off the crossbar in the final minute of five added on, but Southend held out for a deserved three points on the opening day of the Vanarama National League season.
King’s Lynn Town XI: Jones, Fernandez (Linton 62’), Denton, Callan-McFadden, Bird, Clunan (C) (Sundrie 78’), Coleman, Omotayo, Morias, Barrows, Rowley (Gyasi 74’). Subs Not Used: Bowry, Gascoigne
Blues XI: Arnold, Ralph, Ogogo, Coulson, Bridge (Hobson 81’), Murphy (Dennis 80’), Dalby, Ferguson, Phillips, Demetriou, White (C). Subs Not Used: Seaden, Egbri, Kargbo
Referee: Daniel Middleton
Assistants: Jacob Lehane & Andrew Gray
Fourth Official: Gareth Davis
King’s Lynn Town: None
Southend United: Sam Dalby 8’
King’s Lynn Town: Ethan Coleman 43’, Pierce Bird 86’
Southend United: Nathan Ralph 38’, Rhys Murphy 85’
King’s Lynn Town: Junior Morias 83’
Southend United: None