Southend United were unable to hold onto what would have been a vital three points as Alfie Beestin equalised in the 90th minute for 10-man Scunthorpe United in a 1-1 draw at the Sands Venue Stadium.
The visitors had looked set for their first-ever win at the ground better known as Glanford Park when Ashley Nathaniel-George dispatched a penalty with 10 minutes remaining after Jordan Clarke had thrown Timothee Dieng to the ground in the box.
Clarke was sent off as a result with Blues just needing to hold out to pick up a first win at Scunthorpe in 38 years but Beestin managed to find just enough space in the Southend box to get a shot away which beat Mark Oxley and ensured the Scunthorpe hoodoo continued.
After the midweek results had conspired against Blues and left them five points adrift of safety in League Two, the pressure was on to pick up a vital three points on the road but history was not on Southend’s side having not won away at Scunthorpe since 1983.
In a bid for a first win at the Iron for almost four decades, Mark Molesley made just the one change as Mark Oxley returned between the sticks. At least that was the only change, initially, because Elvis Bwomono fell ill during the warm-up and was also replaced, this time by Ricky Holmes.
Neither side had been in particularly good form going into today, and it showed in the opening exchanges with a couple of speculative efforts from Ryan Loft and Kevin van Veen the best either side could muster in the opening quarter of an hour.
From that point on though and Southend began to threaten, and Reeco Hackett-Fairchild saw an effort from outside the box fly over before Simeon Akinola outmuscled Jai Rowe before playing in Holmes, but the winger wasn’t able to get in a clean strike on goal.
Loft went close with a header wide midway through the half, but it was Blues who ended the first 45 the stronger. After efforts from Akinola and Timothee Dieng had gone by the wayside, Holmes went close after a devilish cross from Nathan Ferguson in injury-time but he could only poke wide.
The visitors continued to press after the restart and forced Mark Howard into making his first save of the afternoon when Alan McCormack stung the palms of the goalkeeper with a shot from distance that needed tipping over the crossbar.
Mark Molesley then made a double switch on the hour mark with Ashley Nathaniel-George and Kyle Taylor coming on and the two combined well with the former teeing up the latter for a chance which Taylor blazed off target.
The hosts had been quiet in the second-half and manager Neil Cox decided to withdraw their top-scorer Loft and replace him with Abo Eisa, and the Iron number 11 almost made an immediate impact as his low shot from outside the box came back of the foot of the post.
It was a huge let-off for Blues who were then gifted a huge opportunity of their own to secure victory when they were awarded a penalty with 12 minutes remaining for an off the ball incident involving Dieng and Scunthorpe captain Jordan Clarke.
Clarke appeared to throw Dieng to the ground in the box which was spotted by referee Rob Lewis who pointed for the penalty. Clarke was shown a straight red card for his troubles and Nathaniel-George drilled the ball home from the spot with 10 minutes remaining.
The goal had put Blues on the cusp of a first-ever league win at Glanford Park but they couldn’t hold out against the 10-men of Scunthorpe who levelled in the 90th minute as the ball managed to bobble through to Alfie Beestin who calmly fired past Oxley to break Southend hearts.
Scunthorpe United XI: Howard, Clarke (C), Bedeau, Gilliead, Loft (Eisa 64’), van Veen (McAtee 71’), Brown, Green (Hippolyte 88’), Beestin, Karacan, Rowe (Howe 88’). Subs Not Used: Watson, Spence, O’Malley
Blues XI: Oxley, McCormack (K Taylor 61’), Hobson, Dieng, Akinola (Goodship 71’), Hackett-Fairchild (Mellis 82’), Demetriou, Holmes (Nathaniel-George 61’), Hart, Ferguson, White (C). Subs Not Used: Seaden, Cordner, Acquah
Referee: Rob Lewis
Assistants: Barry Gordon & Alistair Nelson
Fourth Official: Darren Drysdale
Scunthorpe United: Alfie Beestin 90’
Southend United: Ashley Nathaniel-George (p)80’
Scunthorpe United: Jem Karacan 75’
Southend United: Timothee Dieng 68’
Scunthorpe United: Jordan Clarke 78’
Southend United: None