Town displayed plenty of grit and determination to secure a share of the spoils in a 1-1 draw away at Southend United at Roots Hall this evening.
Fans didn’t have long to wait for the opening goal but it went the way of the Shrimpers with Will Atkinson beating Lawrence Vigouroux with a low effort.
Sean Murray went close for the Reds but the visitors had to dig deep to withstand sustained periods of pressure from their hosts, who had chances to extend their lead before the break.
It was a different story in the second-half with the Reds dominating for large spells, but they were unable to make their pressure count with Nathan Delfouneso, John Goddard and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill all a whisker away from hitting the target.
But Jon Obika grabbed a deserved equaliser for the visitors who were then subject to heavy pressure in the game’s closing stages, but Vigouroux made a string of outstanding stops to ensure Town returned to Wiltshire with a well-earned point.
Town plumped for three changes with Conor Thomas, Sean Murray and Nathan Delfouneso all coming back into the starting XI.
Michael Doughty and Brad Barry missed out and Tom Smith dropped to the bench, while Jon Obika was handed the captain’s armband.
It was the Reds, once again lining-up in a 4-3-3 formation, who carved out the game’s first opportunity with John Goddard slicing wide after the Shrimpers failed to clear their lines from a free-kick.
Sean Murray then dragged wide before the opening goal of the night arrived with just eleven minutes on the clock, but it went the way of the home side.
Town were unable to defend a blistering quick Southend attack and they were punished as Will Atkinson slotted home from inside the area after being picked out by Anthony Wordsworth.
It was an early setback for the visitors but they did respond in a positive fashion, although Darnell Furlong’s effort was over by some distance.
Murray went closer moments later as his drive was pushed away to safety by Mark Oxley in the Southend goal, before Nile Ranger saw his effort blocked at the other end.
A relentless spell of pressure then followed for the home side who won a succession of corners and they were perhaps unlucky not to add to their lead.
Stephen McLaughlin’s firm drive was deflected inches past the post before Lawrence Vigouroux did well to hold an effort from Wordsworth.
It was a scrappy first-half of football overall and Town were struggling to get going in the final-third, while they had Vigouroux to thank at the other end who got down low to hold a Jason Demetriou strike on the stroke of half-time.
Town started the second-half brightly and perhaps should have been level just shy of the hour mark when Nathan Delfouneso could only send a header wide from close-range.
Luke Norris replaced Sean Murray with the Reds still very much in the game, before Ranger sent a tame effort straight at Vigouroux.
Town were much improved in the second-half and they were inches away from hauling themselves level past the hour mark when a clever free-kick allowed Goddard a clean strike at goal, but the midfielder’s crisp effort was somehow kept out by the legs of Oxley.
Ormonde-Ottewill then flashed a shot just wide with Town continuing to press the issue, but they were unable to add a clinical edge to their bright attacking play.
However, that pressure soon told and Town were back on level-terms thanks to Jon Obika who saw his drive deflected into the far corner after being teed up by Conor Thomas.
Southend went up the other end and went close with Ranger seeing his shot deflected out for a corner, before Vigouroux produced a superb save to push away McLaughlin’s shot on the angle.
The Shrimpers kept piling on the pressure as Marc-Antoine Fortune saw his header hooked off the line, before Vigouroux mustered up another stunning save to this time deny McLaughlin.
Southend were throwing everything at Town but the visitors were standing firm with Vigouroux providing the heroics.
The stopper clawed away Wordsworth’s header before he came up trumps to deny the midfielder once again with the last kick of the game to secure a share of the spoils for the Reds.
TEAM AND STATS:
SCORERS - Will Atkinson (11), Jon Obika (73).
SOUTHEND UNITED - Oxley, Demetriou, Thompson, Ferdinand (C), Timlin; Atkinson, Leonard, Wordsworth, McLaughlin; Cox, Ranger (Marc-Antoine Fortune 76).
Subs Not Used - Smith, O’Neill, Sokolik, King, McGlashan, Matsuzaka.
TOWN - Vigouroux; Furlong, Rossi-Branco, Jones, Ormonde-Ottewill; Thomas, Rodgers, Murray (Luke Norris 60); Delfouneso, Obika (C), Goddard (Tom Smith 82).
Subs Not Used - Henry, Evans, Iandolo, Young, Twine.
Referee - Darren Deadman
SOUTHEND UNITED - Jason Demetriou.
TOWN - Conor Thomas, Raphael Rossi-Branco.
ATTENDANCE - 5,881 (166 Away Fans).