Pilgrims 0-2 Southend United
by Barbara Singleton
There was no hiding the sense of disappointment felt at the loss of more vital points in the scrap to avoid relegation from the Third Division. And particularly so on the night that Steve Evans made his eagerly-awaited return to the managerial role at York Street. United made a bright start in front of an expectant crowd, but faltered somewhat at the concession of an early goal. Subsequent missed chances and some indifferent defending prevented the Pilgrims from overturning the deficit and in the end fellow strugglers Southend ran out tidy winners and in the process avenge defeat by the same scoreline at their own Roots Hall ground in the reverse fixture in October. Uniteds cause was not helped by the interval replacement of injury victim Neil Redfearn and the 57th minute dismissal of Stuart Balmer. And in the absence of this experienced duo, the Pilgrims rarely looked comfortable in trying to at least redress the balance. In the opening moments, though, it looked as if Boston would have a night to remember. Redfearn saw a low drive after just 10 seconds clutched by keeper Daryl Flahavan. And moments later Lee Beevers bundled the ball goalwards from a Redfearn corner only to see the ball booted off the visitors line by Leon Cort. But Southend deflated home hopes in the sixth minute when Mark BENTLEY stole in unmarked to head home from eight yards following a free-kick from the left by Mark Gower.
The visitors grew in confidence and further untaken chances fell to Gower and Laurie Dudfield. Boston went close on 15 minutes when Mark Greaves saw a header from another Redfearn set-piece thump away off the bar, moments after a similar link-up between the pair had seen another header force Flahavan into a good save. Southend hit back six minutes before the break and a Kevin Maher shot flashed inches too high. Boston resumed on the offensive straight from the turn-around with Jermaine Brown seeing a shot on the run fizz past a post. Moments later Tom Bennett missed a great chance when miscuing six yards out after Brown had headed back a Paul Ellender cross. But home hopes were further deflated just before the hour when Balmer got his marching orders for scything in on Maher having already been cautioned in the first half. And on 65 minutes Southend cashed in on their numerical advantage when Carl Pettefer broke down the right and crossed for substitute Neil JENKINS to deliver another telling header. Boston almost halved the deficit in the 71st minute when sub Peter Duffield crossed from the left and debutant striker Eric Sabin was denied only by a brave, smothering save from Flahavan. But that was about as good as it got for Boston. Southend finished strongly. And with Boston disorganised and all at sea in the dying stages, the visitors might have added to their lead on several occasions - notably through shooting efforts by Leon Constantine, Dudfield and Jenkins. But each time home keeper Paul Bastock pulled off outstanding saves.
United team (4-3-1-2): Bastock; Beevers, Ellender, Balmer, Chapman; Bennett (Douglas 84), Greaves, Noble; Redfearn (Thompson 46); Brown (Duffield 66), Sabin. Subs (not used): Jones, Croudson (gk).