Once again, City fell to Big Crowd Syndrome. 6,701 were present at the Ark, the highest home attendance of the season, mostly on the back of two successive away victories. And so, with optimism and hope anew, it was somewhat predictable that City would struggle. And how. After a lively opening from the visitors, City took the lead when John Eyre was felled by a crude challenge by Martyn Booty in the area. Eyre himself stepped up to take the penalty, and was slightly fortunate to score, his shot striking Southend keeper Woodman’s legs before entering the goal. The Tigers, buoyed by this rather fortuitous opening, attacked the Shrimpers goal with commendable intent, but to little avail. Gradually, as the first half wore on, the visitors gained territorial supremacy, and came close several times to equalising, their set pieces proving particularly worrying. Only a string of desperate clearance, poor finishing and superb goalkeeping by Musselwhite kept the score in the Tigers’ favour, though Goodison had an excellent chance in the closing minutes of the half to make it 2-0, a shot from an Edwards header flashing just wide.
The second half began terribly for City, the midfield completely overwhelmed, the attackers starved of meaningful possession, the defence looking increasingly uncomfortable. Former loanee Martin Carruthers struck the post with a superb volley, but five minutes later the visitors had their deserved equaliser. Yet another corner (City faced 14 in total) was swung in by Scott Forbes, and Leo Roget glanced a near post header past Musselwhite. Poor defending, but it had been coming. Visibly panicking, City very nearly sank without trace in the following five minutes. The game became a procession – Southend attacking, missing or having a shot saved, Musselwhite clearing, Southend regaining the ball, then attacking…. It took a double substitution to bring some semblance of order back to City. Brabin replaced the disappointing Philpott, while Wood replaced the isolated Marcelle. Brabin’s snarling presence shook things up somewhat, and as the game wore in, City began to re-enter a contest they should have been losing by a goal or two. The final fifteen minutes were mostly uneventful, though City very nearly snatched a wholly unmerited victory when Wood was put through by Eyre. Despite grimly holding off the thoroughly illegal challenged of two defenders, the Woodman was on hand to pluck the ball from Wood’s feet.
So, a point gained, though not earned. Nonetheless, despite playing very poorly, again the commitment was there, particularly from Brabin, who looks bloodthirsty when introduced to matches late on. Perry played quite well, but the undoubted man-of-the-match was Musselwhite.