Fleetwood Town 1-1 Southend United
Brian Jeeves reporting from Highbury Stadium
Turning the clock back to the opening day of the 2015/16 League One season and a point on the road for newly-promoted Southend United…
DAVID Worrall’s brilliant late equaliser earned Southend United a share of the spoils against a useful Fleetwood Town outfit in their first game back in League One after five-years in the basement division.
Blues arrived in the North-West in a confident frame of mind and backed by impressive travelling support. In the lead-up to the game, boss Phil Brown had stressed the importance of getting off to a solid start. The former Hull City chief bolstered the Blues attacking options with the addition of Wembley hero Joe Pigott, who arrived for a second stint on loan from Charlton Athletic. Pigott was named on the bench alongside fellow new recruit Noel Hunt, while Brown included David Mooney and Anthony Wordsworth in his starting line-up.
Under the guidance of Graham Alexander, Fleetwood Town had settled nicely into their League One surroundings. And following a mid-table finish during the last campaign, the Cod Army were ambitiously eyeing up a top-seven berth this time around.
The opening period proved to be somewhat scrappy. Southend had an early taste of just how tough their new League One surroundings will be when Fleetwood’s Bobby Grant fired a crisp effort goalbound that goalkeeper Daniel Bentley did well to push behind. Blues responded, but skipper John White’s deep centre was clawed away by Fleetwood keeper Chris Maxwell.
Blues started to attack with a little more intent and perhaps should have taken the lead when Will Atkinson disappointingly hit the side netting instead of squaring to a clutch of potential takers. Meanwhile, David Mooney’s low drive found Maxwell’s gloves, this after Weston and Wordsworth had fashioned the opening.
But just after the half-hour mark Blues fell behind. Cian Bolger’s clearance only fell as far as Declan McManus who in turn beat Bentley with a thundering drive from all of thirty-yards. Maxwell clung to Weston’s attempt as the visitors looked for a way back, But frustratingly Blues were unable to turn their possession into any viable opportunity of an equalising goal.
And Blues a came mighty close to falling further behind immediately after the break. Firstly Bentley produced a smart save to thwart Jamille Matt’s header, then seconds later McManus’ close-range effort struck the bar with the Blues rearguard at sixes and sevens. In response, Kevan Hurst’s speculative attempt had Maxwell scrambling across his goal to turn aside.
In a bid to pep up their attack, Blues boss Brown introduced Noel Hunt, Pigott and Worrall into the fray in place of Will Atkinson, David Mooney and Kevan Hurst. And the move almost paid dividends as Pigott’s effort was hacked off the line by Conor McLaughlin. Soon after, Hunt warmed the palms of Maxwell after Pigott had picked him out with a neat nod down.
Blues continued to press. Wordsworth should have done better, firing the wrong side of an upright following Ben Coker’s cross. But with just six minutes remaining Southend restored parity. Fleetwood failed to clear, and Blues substitute Worrall, brilliantly lifted over Maxwell and his stranded backline from the touchline, much to the delight of the 479 travelling fans behind the goal.
Jamie Proctor was horribly wayward in stoppage time as Fleetwood looked for a late winner, while former Shrimper Lyle Della-Verde was unable to direct his header goalwards with the last action of the afternoon.
Speaking afterwards, Phil Brown was content with his teams’ point, saying: “We came to get something from the game, and the longer it goes on you think is there something there for you?.
“They could have killed us off with the chance just after half-time that hit the crossbar, and it was a little bit open all of a sudden. But we kept on knocking at the door and eventually, it opened.
“It was a battle of wits, it was a battle of systems, it was a battle of individuals and then units. I thought we deserved to get something from the game and we could have gone on and won it, but that would have been a bit harsh on them. But that’s the first point on board in the higher division.
On the goals, Brown said: “It was a quality finish from both players to be fair. Theirs was a great strike, and if that’s an advert for the first division quality in the final third, then Dave Worrall responded with a similar type of effort.
Goalscorer David Worrall said: “First game of the season it’s always good to get something on the table, especially away from home. Fleetwood are a good team, they know this league, so I think it is a good point. “I think Fleetwood were more of a counter-attacking team, we had more of the possession. I think we had some good chances. But that’s what teams do in this league, they frustrate you, then they’ll get a goal and sit there.
On his wonder goal, Worrall said: “Some of the lads are giving me some stick, saying that, I didn’t mean it – but I did.
Southend will look to make further Sky Bet League One progress next Saturday, August 15, when Walsall are the visitors to Roots Hall, kick-off 3pm.
Fleetwood Town: Chris Maxwell, Danny Andrew, Stevie Jordan, Eggert Jonsson, Conor McLaughlin, Amarii Bell, Antoni Sarcevic (Capt), Jimmy Ryan, Bobby Grant (Lyle Della-Verde), Declan McManus (Vamara Sango), Jamille Matt (Jamie Proctor) Subs not used: Andreas Arestidou, Nathan Pond. David Ball, Jack Sowerby.
Southend United: Daniel Bentley, John White (Capt), Cian Bolger, Adam Barrett, Ben Coker, Will Atkinson (Noel Hunt), Kevan Hurst (David Worrall), Ryan Leonard, Anthony Wordsworth, Myles Weston, David Mooney (Joe Pigott) Subs not used: Ted Smith, Luke Prosser, Michael Timlin, Jack Payne.
Referee: David Webb
Assistants: Matthew Parry and Geoffrey Liddle
Fourth Official: Anthony Moore
Attendance: 3,228 (479 from Southend)