Fleetwood 1-1 Southend
Fleetwood Town were forced to settle for a point as an inspired Daniel Bentley produced a magnificent display in the Southend goal to ensure they secured the point they needed to cement their place in the play-offs.
The draw also almost effectively ends Fleetwood’s spirited fight for automatic promotion – meaning they will join Southend in the play-offs depending on how Chesterfield fare in their away clash with Burton Albion.
The returning Steven Schumacher had fired the Cod Army in front, but Barry Corr headed in five minutes before the interval to ensure Southend returned south with the point they needed.
Graham Alexander was forced into two changes in the build up to the final home game of the season as both Conor McLaughlin and Alan Goodall were ruled out through injury and suspension respectively. Liam Hogan came in for his first start since February, whilst Steven Schumacher came in to replace Goodall at midfield.
With so much riding on the game for Fleetwood, the opening exchanges was understandably sluggish. Openings and craft was at a premium for both sides, but the visitors controlled large periods of possession and displayed the confidence and energy of a side that had won four of their last five games.
Southend’s Ben Coker wasted a free kick in a well-placed central position after 15 minutes and Barry Corr saw a firm low header well saved by Maxwell at his near post in a 30-minute period that had little separating the two promotion chasing outfits.
Despite their slow start, Fleetwood took the lead six minutes after the half hour mark. Josh Morris’s good work on the left drew a foul from Josh White, and from the resulting free kick, Schumacher whipped in a goal bound effort that evaded everyone in the area and crept into the bottom corner of Daniel Bentley’s goal.
The opener sparked the game into life and Southend got the goal their first half performance had warranted as Barry Corr marauded to the near post and planted a header past Maxwell from Ben Coker’s corner from the right.
With the words of Graham Alexander ringing in their ears, Fleetwood, full of intent and drive, took the game to the visitors. David Ball forced Bentley into two fine saves within three minutes of the restart, before Blair forced the Shrimpers keeper into another acrobatic save on 52 minutes.
Their passing sharper and more purposeful and their movement and tempo quicker and more direct, Town were a completely different team in the second half. Sarcevic was next to try his luck as he attempted to replicate the long-range free kick goal at Oxford, before Schumacher saw his driven set-piece tipped over by the impressive Bentley.
With the clock ticking down, Alexander decided to twist and deployed Jon Parkin in place of Matty Blair, but it took a superb reaction save from Maxwell to keep the scores level. Southend substitute, Anthony Straker, deceived two defenders on the left before picking Corr six yards out, but the striker’s first time shot was instinctively kept out to keep Fleetwood level.
Bentley was continuing to win the personal duel between himself and Ball after tipping over an arching header from Town’s striker, before Corr sent a header wide with six minutes remaining.
Fleetwood continued to pile on the pressure in search of a goal that would send their season into a dramatic final day finale at Chesterfield, but Bentley and Southend were to remain resilient to the final whistle, a whistle that also effectively ended Fleetwood’s chances of catching the Sky Bet League 2 automatic promotion places.
FLEETWOOD TOWN: Maxwell, Hogan, Pond, Roberts ©, Jordan, Blair (Parkin, 70), Schumacher (Evans 89), Sarcevic, Morris, Ball, Hume
SUBSTITUTES: Davies, Murdoch, Evans, Parkin, Cresswell, Allen, Barton
SOUTHEND UNITED: Bentley, White ©, Sokolik, Egan, Coker, Atkinson, Leonard, Timlin, Murphy (Straker, 61), Corr (Eastwood, 89), Hurst
SUBSTITUTES: Chambers, Prosser, Eastwood, Straker, Clifford, Thompson, Barnard