Southend United’s final game of the League Two season ended in a 1-1 draw with Newport County at Roots Hall with the point enough for the Exiles to secure a place in the play-offs.
Blues made two changes from the side that won at Barrow last weekend with James Olayinka coming in for Reeco Hackett-Fairchild who dropped to the bench while Matt Rush replaced the injured Ricky Holmes up front, partnering Greg Halford in attack.
Visitors Newport were unchanged off the back of a four-game unbeaten run in which they’d failed to concede once but it took Southend just 11 minutes to break through the Exiles defences as Shaun Hobson put the home side in front early on.
A short corner from Harry Kyprianou made its way to Terrell Egbri on the left who whipped the ball into the danger zone. Hobson went up for the header and the ball fell kindly for the defender to take a second stab at it and bundle it beyond Tom King.
It was the worst possible start for Newport who, despite starting the day in 5th, weren’t assured of a place in the play-offs just yet and needed a point to be certain, but nothing was coming off for Michael Flynn’s side in the first-half who were being frustrated by Southend.
And Blues should have had the ball in the back of the net again after a quick one-two between Egbri and Elvis Bwomono down the right led to the latter slinging a ball across the face of goal towards Halford who skied it over the crossbar, with his blushes only spared by the offside flag.
The Exiles struggled to carve out a clear opening before the interval, though they went close just before the break when the ball fell to Scot Bennett on the edge of the box with his volley going narrowly wide.
Blues started the second-half brightly and should have doubled their advantage when Halford picked Mickey Demetriou’s pocket. Halford played it across to Rush who stayed onside but his effort was saved by King before King comfortably claimed Olayinka’s follow-up.
With Newport's play-off spot hanging in the balance, the visitors went close to equalising when Josh Sheehan’s free-kick needed clawing away by Mark Oxley, but the away side did make the breakthrough shortly after as Demetriou flicked in a long-throw from Aaron Lewis to level it.
A point was all the Exiles needed but Southend were immediately given a chance to retake the lead as Rush was adjudged to have been fouled by Liam Shephard in the box, despite the protestations of the visitors. Rush stepped up to take the penalty only for King to get down low and make the save.
The final half an hour played out without incident as both sides settled for a point apiece, which was more than enough for the visitors who head into the play-offs while Southend can now start preparing for life in the National League next season.
Blues XI: Oxley, Bwomono, Hobson, Cordner, Olayinka (Hackett-Fairchild 83’), Egbri (O Coker 88’), Rush (Goodship 83’), Halford, K Taylor, Hart (Kyprianou 7’), White (C). Subs Not Used: Seaden, McCormack, Walsh
Newport County XI: King, Haynes, Labadie (C) (Dolan 75’), Amond (Taylor 79’), Sheehan, Lewis, Bennett, Hartigan, Collins, Demetriou, Shephard. Subs Not Used: Townsend, Gambin, Maynard, Ellison, Ledley
Referee: John Brooks
Assistants: Nick Greenhalgh & Akil Howson
Fourth Official: Declan Bourne
Southend United: Shaun Hobson 11’
Newport County: Mickey Demetriou 56’
Southend United: Greg Halford 41’, Shaun Hobson 51’
Newport County: None