Southend United 1
Rovers picked up their first away point in a battling 1-1 draw against Southend at Roots Hall this evening.
A draw was probably a fair result, though it was disappointing in that Matt Harrold had given Rovers a second half lead but they were pegged back by an equalising goal for the home side just 16 minutes later.
It was their best away performance of the season to date and turned out to be a determined and hardworking team effort.
It was also good to see Seanan Clucas back in action following his seven month absence through injury. His 19 minute cameo performance was a major positive for the manager.
John Ward made two changes to his starting lineup, recalling Ryan Brunt and Ollie Norburn at the expense of Mitch Harding and Eliot Richards.
Brunt partnered Harrold up front, while Norburn played wide on the right.
On the bench there was a return to the squad for Clucas following his lengthy spell out through injury and his goal for the reserves in his comeback game on Tuesday.
There was a let off for Rovers in the first minute when a free kick from the left seemed to deceive Steve Mildenhall, who missed his punch, but Mark McChrystal was on hand to clear.
Rovers, though, settled quickly and took the game to their hosts. Both john-Joe O’Toole and Ryan Brunt saw attempted shots blocked on the edge of the area while at the other end Kevan Hurst fired wide of the target.
Harrold headed wide from a Brunt cross, Tom Lockyer fired well wide and an Ollie Norburn shot was blocked as Rovers continued to enjoy a great deal of possession.
It took the home side 27 minutes to create a decent opportunity and it fell to Freddy Eastwood, whose powerful drive was palmed behind by Mildenhall.
That signalled a spell of home pressure that saw John White head wide and a couple of long range efforts from Ryan Leonard drift wide of the mark.
Rovers’ best move of the half saw Michael Smith play the ball inside to Lockyer and continue his run down the right. Lockyer played a delightful pass into the full back’s feet and the resulting cross was tailor made
for Ryan Brunt who slid in but couldn’t quite get the touch he needed before Luke Prosser cleared.
Eastwood’s late first half effort was deflected into Mildenhall’s hands by his team mate Adam Thompson, but there was still time for a moment of controversy.
Substitute Jack Payne was fouled by Lee Brown, but from the press box it was definitely outside the area,
Payne took a tumble inside the box, prompting his manager and the home crowd to appeal for a penalty and they couldn’t believe it when referee Tim Robinson awarded Rovers a goal kick.
The home side went close shortly after the start of the second period but Lockyer made a superb block from Ryan Leonard’s effort while Adam Thompson’s downward header flew wide of the far post.
On 51 minutes Harrold gave Rovers the lead after some fine play down the right between Andy Bond and Michael Smith and it was the latter’s cross to the back post that eluded goalkeeper Daniel Bentley and fell kindly to Harrold who powered a header home from three yards.
The goal stung Southend into action and after a couple of half chances were squandered they equalised with an excellent strike from Hurst, who turned and hit a left foot shot past Mildenhall from just inside the area.
It was the signal for more home pressure and Leonard and Corr both went close to putting their side ahead.
Mildenhall did well to touch a shot from Hurst over the bar and the same player hit two more efforts over while Mildenhall made a comfortable save from Corr.
The final chances of the game fell to Rovers. Though, and Bond drove a long range free kick well wide, while O’Toole was denied a goal when his shot hit a home defender and went behind for the game’s final corner.
Rovers: Steve Mildenhall, Michael Smith, Tom Parkes. Mark McChrystal, Lee Brown, Ollie Norburn (Seanan Clucas, 71), John-Joe O’Toole, Tom Lockyer, Andy Bond, Ryan Brunt (Ellis Harrison, 55), Matt Harrold
Substitutes: David Clarkson, Eliot Richards, Mitch Harding, Conor Gough, Alefe Santos
Yellow Cards: McChrystal, O’Toole, Mildenhall, Harrold
Southend United: Daniel Bentley, Adam Thompson, Mark Phillips (Jack Payne, 23), Luke Prosser, John White, Kevan Hurst, Will Atkinson, Ryan Leopard, Anthony Straker, Freddy Eastwood (Cauley Woodrow, 54),
Substitutes: Paul Smith, Michael Timlin, Craig Reid, Conor Clifford, Josh Banton
Yellow Card: Prosser
Referee: Tim Robinson
Rovers Supporters: 415