Southend United claimed only their sixth point in nineteen games as the Essex side held Burton Albion to a valiant 1-1 draw at the Pirelli Stadium on Tuesday night.
Surprisingly, Sol Campbell’s travelling side looked superior from the very first whistle, and were far more physical and committed to winning the ball back than the hosts. A spectacular save from Kieran O’Hara in the Burton goal kept the match goalless as he displayed sublime reactions to fingertip a close-range Stephen McLaughlin header onto the crossbar.
Southend’s dominance came into fruition in the 21st minute when McLaughlin broke the deadlock on the second time of asking with a simple header after he was found unmarked by an inch-perfect corner to the front post. O’Hara was left helpless as he watched The Shrimpers take a rare lead.
Then, just ten minutes before the break, controversy struck. A seemingly insignificant throw-in was played back to John-Joe O’Toole, who was fouled by Southend’s Tom Hopper after letting the ball run through towards O’Hara.
As the two tumbled to the ground, they became entangled and landed awkwardly. Hopper stayed down as his teammates swamped O’Toole and began to shove the Albion centre-back, soon followed by a 20-man brawl of handbags as the Burton players arrived on the scene. Referee Darren Drysdale joined the fray and wasted no time in producing a red card for O’Toole, much to the dismay of the 1,880 supporters on the Pirelli Stadium’s terraces.
Soon after halftime, Burton brought proceedings level after a masterful free kick from Scotsman Scott Fraser curled into the top-right corner, beyond the reach of wrong-footed Nathan Bishop.
Spurred on by the equaliser, The Brewers kicked into top gear and threw everything they had forward in search of the go-ahead goal. A vicious strike from distance from David Templeton beat the goalkeeper but crashed against the bar and flew over the stands.
Colin Daniel linked up with Ryan Edwards to create a chance twice as the offensive pressure continued into the closing minutes, the first of which was expertly blocked by Nathan Ralph. Shortly afterwards, artful build-up play resulted in Edwards faced with an outstanding opportunity to claim the three points for Burton, only for the Aussie midfielder to fluff his lines and head just inches over the bar.
Neither side enjoyed any further chances and the tie fizzled out into a 1-1 draw.
Brewers boss Nigel Clough praised the character of his squad, saying: “[They were] very difficult circumstances. I thought we were brilliant tonight.”
He continued: “The effort in the second half with ten men was quite staggering. To be the team who looks most likely to score, to be on the front foot, restrict the opposition – Kieran [O’Hara] didn’t have a shot to save in the second half – is absolutely incredible. I don’t care if they are second-bottom or not.”