Published on 28th Oct 2018 by Rachel Garfirth
Maldon Academy: 3 Southend Men’s 3s
Southend Men’s 3s fought back twice to snatch a barely deserved point against a plucky Maldon Academy side in an enthralling tie. Steven Wilkinson’s men were pushed to their limits and were ultimately made to pay for an uncharacteristic lackadaisical start before clawing back what may yet prove to be an important away point come the season’s end.
The opening 15 minutes at the Wallace Binder Field saw Maldon race into a fully warranted two-goal advantage that defied their lowly league position in Division 9SE. Southend were caught cold attempting to clear their lines and were immediately punished as the Maldon forward slotted through a crowd of players from the top of the area to open the scoring. Minutes later, a beleaguered Southend defence were undone once more as Maldon, with their tails firmly up, piled forward and carved through the Blues’ midfield like a hot spoon through ice-cream - a neat reverse shot catching ‘keeper John Evans off guard and finding the corner with aplomb.
2-0 down and in complete disarray, Wilkinson reverted to a more familiar formation which allowed the likes of midfield playmaker Andy Shute to find the ball in dangerous positions and cause problems for the home side. Southend pressed forward with Mickey Walsh and Ian Richardson both going close from open play. Walsh then forced a good save from the ‘keeper following a short corner. Then, a minute from the half-time whistle, Walsh tapped in after a moment of hesitation in the Maldon rearguard allowed the forward to pounce following his initial blocked effort.
Half-time: Maldon academy 2-1 Southend Mens 3s
Reinvigorated by that late goal in the first half, Southend took the initiative at the start of the second and ramped up the pressure on their hosts. Ian Richardson worked tirelessly down the left hand side and pushed Maldon deeper into their own half. That allowed space down the right for Andy Shute to beat a couple of players before sending in a low, driven cross which was not dealt with and left an unmarked Walsh to gleefully slam home the equaliser. That goal was Walsh’s 12th of the season and kept up his remarkable 2:1 goals to games ratio.
Maldon appeared shellshocked as Southend finally showed what they have been all about this season. The visitors looked to be in full control and probed for the goal which would take them into the lead for the first time.
However, another slack piece of play allowed Maldon in on goal under no real pressure and Southend failed to recover the situation from there on in as the Oranges fully capitalised to strike once more. With 20 minutes remaining, Southend centre backs Joe Castle and Lee Evans had to be at their best to make vital interceptions to prevent a misery compiling fourth goal.
As time ticked by, Southend lost top scorer Walsh to a groin strain and seemed destined for defeat. But defensive duo Ty Barrett and Grant Clark combined well to play the ball out to zippy wing-back Steve Roach, whose guided cross found the right winger Aaron Harding in front of goal. The forward sent an instinctive first-time flick past the stranded ‘keeper and high into the netting to grab a crucial late leveller for his second goal in as many matches. The rapturous away following flooded the pitch with delight following Harding’s howitzer and, once order was restored and the game could be resumed, the full-time whistle was sounded with Southend looking to snatch all three points.
The Blues will bemoan their lack of discipline at the back and, despite rescuing the draw, they will know that this result will mean two points dropped with teams around them picking up vital wins. Nevertheless, Steven Wilkinson knows that a win at home to Upminster next week will take his side back into second spot.
Man of the Match Andy Shute was recognised for his influential drive and determination through the midfield dragging his team back into the match after an inexplicable start.
A positive and resolute Shute said: "We had a tough start to the game, going 2-0 down in the first 15 minutes. We could have dropped our heads and lost the game but we found the strength as a team to come back and fight. With a strong resurgence in midfield leading the attack, we found our confidence and ended up with a very much deserved draw and something for our brilliant fans to take away. A resounding team effort that we will take into our next game!"
Southend’s next match will be a home encounter against Upminster 5s at Chelmsford High School for Girls - push back: 1:30p.m.
Spanker: Mickey Walsh goes close from a short corner effort.