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Southend United 2-1 Leyton Orient
Super sub, Matt Rush, threw Phil Brown’s Shrimpers a relegation lifeline, in a dramatic Essex derby, on Saturday.
Staring the National League trapdoor, after their midweek Colchester reverse, the Shrimpers live to fight another day, after closest rivals, Barrow, lost at high-flying Tranmere Rovers.
Timothee Dieng started the game leading the line, and flashed a couple of headers off-target, before being replaced by veteran, Greg Halford, midway through the opening period.
The East Londoners then began to take control and top scorer, Danny Johnson was unlucky not to add to his account with a couple of close-range efforts.
Sam Ling then saw his flick crash against Mark Oxley’s bar, on 38 minutes, from Dan Kemp’s flag-kick.
But, the Shrimpers rode their luck, and within three minutes the recalled Tyler Cordner crashed home Ricky Holmes’s in-swinging corner – with Halford and Orient’s Hector Kyprianou injured in the process.
However, the pendulum swung back dramatically. Sub, Ouss Cissé – dropped after the midweek Cambridge debacle – made an instant impact.
On for the reportedly concussed Kyprianou, his stoppage-time header fed Dennis, who drove home through a sea of bodies, to beat Oxley at his near post. Game on!
Neither side showed much urgency until Oxley made a superb 65th-minute reflex block to deny Johnson before Cissé cleared a Sam Hart effort off the line from an Egbri corner.
After a tranche of substitutions, the game settled and Rush – on for a limping Holmes – latched on to Hart’s clever pass, drew Vigouroux and restored the Shrimpers’ lead with less than fifteen minutes remaining.
A frantic finale saw the Shrimpers survive an Orient onslaught, with Oxley denying Wilkinson with a fine parry.
A delighted Brown said: “We needed to win today and needed Barrow to lose. We’ve done our part of the bargain. But, I also owe this win to my backroom staff for insisting that I included Matt Rush, after impressing in training.”
“However, we didn’t turn up – on Tuesday night – for the first hour against our local rivals. I haven’t changed things around that much. It’s just a case of fitness and character. Everyone is now buying into what I want as a team – even though they were brought in by other managers.”
Brown added: “We’re relying on Forest Green – who are pushing for promotion – and if they can put on a performance against Barrow [this week], then we’ve still got a chance.”
Disappointed Orient interim boss, Jobi McAnuff admitted: “Us not getting into the play-offs isn’t about today, it’s about all season. Even under my charge, there have been games where we’ve failed to win when they’ve been there for the taking.”
“For me, that comes down to a lack of character, lack of leadership. We’re very much middle of the road and even though Southend hadn’t scored many goals recently, we weren’t that hard to score against today”.
He added: “I wouldn’t say there are any ‘shirkers’ in the dressing room – but for want of a word we have needed some ‘spunk’, or a bit of the ‘devil’. That comes with experience, and there aren’t many with football league experience in the squad. That’s something we need to get in the building – a thing other sides have in abundance.”
Matchwinner, Rush admitted: “I’m just glad I got my chance today. We have needed goals, and I put one in the net. It was a good ball from Sam Hart and I nudged the defender and got my opportunity.”
Southend United return to Sky Bet League Two action on Saturday, May 1 when they take on Barrow at Holker Street (3pm). At the same time, Leyton Orient host Carlisle United at the Breyer Group Stadium.
Southend United: Mark Oxley, Elvis Bwomono, Tyler Cordner, John White (Capt), Sam Hart, Kyle Taylor, Nathan Ferguson (Shaun Hobson 70), Terrell Egbri, Ricky Holmes, (Matt Rush 53), Recco Hackett-Fairchild (Louis Walsh 70), Timothee Dieng (Greg Halford 26) Subs not used: Harry Seaden (GK), Harry Kyprianou, James Olayinka
Leyton Orient: Lawrence Vigouroux, Sam Ling, Tunji Akinola (Tristan Abrahams 80′), Dan Happe, James Brophy, Nick Freeman (Craig Clay 46′), Hector Kyprianou (Ouss Cissé 43′), Daniel Kemp, Conor Wilkinson, Danny Johnson (Ruel Sotiriou 68′), Louis Dennis (Jobi McAnuff 68′) Subs not used: Sam Sargeant (GK), Jamie Turley
Assistants: J.Amey and R.Dabbs
Fourth Official: L.Crowhurst