Southend United 1-1 Newport County
Southend United said goodbye to the Football League after 101-years despite finishing the worst season in the clubs’ history with a three-match unbeaten Sky Bet League Two sequence.
It’s difficult to see exactly where Southend United go from here. Chairman, Ron Martin took to the airwaves to offer an explanation – Blues supporters – disgruntled, disillusioned and suspicious – responded via social media, confirming they’d had enough.
The 116-year-old football club has survived one or two close scrapes over the years. Around 300 fans congregated ahead of the game, protesting passionately for change. They deserve better, this alarming crescendo has manifested at pace over the past three seasons, but in truth, the fractured relationship between Mr Martin and the Roots Hall faithful now appears to be at the point of no return. They’d listened intently to his radio broadcast – at the very least, they wanted to hear the Chairman utter the word ‘sorry’ – it wasn’t forthcoming.
Unsurprisingly, Mr Martin received a hostile welcome, but despite the activity outside the stadium, there was still a football match to be played. Visitors’ Newport looking to secure a play-off place. Their issues a million miles away from those facing the hosts.
Phil Brown made two changes to the side which had won at Barrow seven days previous, with Matt Rush and James Olayinka handed a starting berth.
Mark Oxley clawed away Aaron Lewis’ fierce angled attempt, while County stopper, Tom King saved from Greg Halford as the sides exchanged early opportunities. But with the Blues next foray forward, Shaun Hobson profited from Terrell Egbri’s centre to fire a left-footed strike low beyond King to hand Blues an eleventh-minute lead.
Halford’s blushes were spared by an assistants’ flag after the former Colchester man skied from close range after Elvis Bwomono had centred. Meanwhile, Scott Bennett was a whisker away for the Welshmen, who had initially struggled to make an impact.
King denied Rush and Olayinka in quick succession as Southend continued to create better opportunities immediately after the restart. Nevertheless, Oxley had to be on his metal, turning aside a dipping dead-ball effort from Josh Sheehan as Newport looked for a foothold. And they found it shortly before the hour. Mickey Demetriou’s flick header deceived Oxley following a long throw from Lewis.
Blues passed up a glorious opportunity to regain their earlier advantage. Referee, Johns Brookes adjudged Liam Sheppard to have fouled Rush. However, the Blues youngster saw his resulting spot-kick rebuffed by King, drawing a dramatic reaction from the sizable following of Newport officials, miffed moments earlier by the whistlers decision.
Blues have shown spirit and determination, particularly this past few weeks. But with so many questions and so few answers, it could be some time, if ever, that an EFL fixture is staged involving Southend United.
Southend United: Mark Oxley, Elvis Bwomono, Shaun Hobson, Tyler Cordner, James Olayinka (Reeco Hackett-Fairchild 83’), Terrell Egbri, Matt Rush (Brandon Goodship 83’), Greg Halford, Kyle Taylor, Sam Hart (Harry Kyprianou 7’), John White (Capt) Subs not used: Harry Seaden (GK), Alan McCormack, Lois Walsh, Oli Coker
Booked: Greg Halford (foul), Shaun Hobson (foul)
Goals: Shaun Hobson 11’
Newport County: Tom King, Ryan Hayes, Joss Labadie (Capt) (Matthew Dolan 75’), Padraig Amond (Ryan Taylor 79’), Josh Sheehan, Aaron Lewis, Scott Bennett, Anthony Hartigan, Lewis Collins, Mickey Demetriou, Liam Shephard Subs not used: Nick Townsend (GK), Luke Gambin, Nicky Maynard, Kevin Ellison, Joe Ledley
Goals: Mickey Demetriou 56’
Referee: John Brooks
Assistants: Nick Greenhalgh and Akil Howson
Fourth Official: Declan Bourne