Southend United 1, Wycombe Wanderers 1.
WANDERERS continued their mini revival as they fought back to claim a point at play-off chasing Southend United.
Supersub Paris Cowan-Hall will no doubt try to claim the strike that brought another priceless point in Blues’ fight against the drop, although his thundering effort only entered the net after smacking off goalkeeper Daniel Bentley’s back via the crossbar.
It was a slice of fortune that had deserted Blues throughout their long winless streak, and they’re gradually inching away from the danger zone after securing this draw in spite of falling behind to a fine header from Barry Corr in a scrappy game.
A complete gluepot of a pitch made life difficult for both sides – more so Wanderers, who were set up not to lose as the midfield covered an absolutely enormous amount of ground.
The seventh-placed hosts were denied time and space on the ball by a Blues side who harried and harassed them throughout the 90 minutes in a bid to gain a point.
The Shrimpers looked to build their game plan around the imposing figure of Corr but none of his team mates appeared to have the nous to do anything with the loose balls he won as the hosts went to pieces in the final third.
Wanderers weren’t a whole lot better with their new-look strike partnership of the recalled Steven Craig and Matt McClure, with a succession of easily defended corners and free kicks being the sum total of their attacking threat.
Striker Corr got the better of former Southend man Leon Johnson and held the ball up for colleague Kevan Hurst to fire goalwards, but his shot didn’t dip sharply enough and it cleared the crossbar.
It was Craig who eventually managed the visitors’ first real shot in anger as the ball reached him thanks to the tenacious efforts of Nick Arnold after Johnson had forced Bentley into spilling a high ball into the box, but the Scotsman shanked wide from a good position.
A deep lying Blues midfield was successful in denying Southend clear openings at their goal, but the Shrimpers ought to have crept in front as one-time Wanderers loanee Anthony Straker headed tamely at Matt Ingram following Hurst’s inviting cross from the right.
Hurst went for goal himself the next time he got into a decent position, with his shot going behind off Sam Wood, before Ryan Leonard burst forward from full back and hammered a low shot towards the bottom corner that was superbly tipped behind by Ingram.
Bentley then redeemed himself for his earlier misjudgement by outdoing Ingram in the spectacular saves stakes, somehow leaping to his left to claw Anthony Stewart’s thumping header away from the top corner after a pinpoint set piece delivery from Max Kretzschmar.
In the next move of the match the home fans were on their feet to acclaim what they thought was the game’s opening goal as Corr looped a header over Ingram into the net, but a linesman’s flag came to Wanderers’ rescue as the striker was adjudged offside.
Leonard blasted across the face of goal and wide in another foray forward, although the first half ended with Wanderers on the front foot as McClure’s effort was deflected just past the post.
Blues felt they should have had an early second half penalty as a Kretzschmar strike from distance appeared to hit a hand once it arrived into the penalty area, before Wood scuffed off target as the hosts once more toiled in their efforts to clear the ball.
At the other end Straker repeated his trick from the first half by heading weakly at Ingram from a Hurst cross, before he once more fluffed his lines in front of goal as he skewed an effort horribly wide after an unselfish cushioned header from Corr.
Southend did eventually manage to make the increasing pressure tell and it was Corr who led by example, climbing highest at a corner to send Hurst’s delivery screaming into the top corner to finally break the deadlock.
It was a lead that was nearly doubled almost instantly as Michael Timlin produced a wonderfully timed challenge to rob Josh Scowen of possession before playing an excellent one-two with Corr and firing inches over.
Wanderers were swiftly level however, although the equalising goal had more than a hint of fortune about it. Cowan-Hall, who had been on the pitch for barely five minutes after replacing Arnold, ghosted forward after receiving possession in the middle of the park before cracking a shot goalwards from 20 yards.
It rattled against the crossbar, hit Bentley on the back and crawled almost apologetically over the line before the helpless Shrimpers keeper could get back and stop the ball rolling over the line.
Job done in securing an equaliser, Wycombe’s midfield sat deeper once more as they denied Southend time and space to edge back in front – although their tactics irked Shrimpers boss Phil Brown to the extent that at one point he came onto the pitch to place the ball down for a Wanderers free kick so it could be taken more quickly.
Yet despite that it was actually the visitors who had the better chances to snatch victory late on as Stewart headed over from another Kretzschmar corner, before Jo Kuffour bulldozed his way past a couple of defenders and fed fellow substitute Dean Morgan, whose 20 yarder was brilliantly turned around the post by Bentley.
Wanderers: Ingram, McCoy, Johnson, Stewart, Wood, Arnold (sub Cowan-Hall), Bloomfield, Scowen, Kretzschmar, Craig (sub Morgan), McClure (sub Kuffour). Substitutes not used: Horlock, Kewley-Graham, Pierre, Jeffrey.
Attendance: 5,502 (379 from Wycombe)