Narrow Defeat For Pools At Southend
Paul Murray made three changes to his side for the trip to Essex, with Scott Harrison and Charlie Wyke returning after missing the FA Cup tie and Matt Crooks given his chance to impress in midfield.
The Shrimpers had been struggling on home soil and were without a win in four coming in to the game, and injury forced them in to a reshuffle in their back four.
Wyke tried to take advantage of any uncertainty in the home side’s rearguard when he latched on a ball thirty yards out but his dipping volley went just wide of the target.
The dangerous David Worrall had the hosts’ first sight of goal but, after cutting inside from the left flank, he struck a tame shot straight at Scott Flinders.
Barry Corr hit a shot from the edge of the box which was also straight down Flinders’ throat, while at the other end Sidney Schmeltz whipped a free-kick in to the box which skidded past everyone without picking up a decisive touch.
Worrall found more space to drive in to on the left but after getting to the byline his pulled back cross was headed straight at Flinders at the front post.
With The Blues failing to do too much to frighten Pools, they began to grow in confidence. Nicky Featherstone weaved in to the box on the left and hit a powerful low shot which Daniel Bentley did well to get down low to and parry away.
Moments later the busy Franks stormed inside from the left and struck a powerful rising shot which wasn’t too far away from finding the top corner of Bentley’s net as Murray’s men pressed.
Neil Austin had to be brave to prevent Worrall from getting in a shot on the left of the area, while defender Adam Thompson blazed the best chance of the half well over the bar when it fell kindly to him at the far post after a free-kick.
There was a slow start to the second half but Flinders had to be alert to get across quickly to his left to save from Michael Timlin who let fly from distance after Pools lost possession sloppily on the halfway line.
It gave encouragement to the hosts though, and Worrall could have done better when he latched on to a loose ball on the edge of the box but he struck his effort too high.
Brad Walker was dispossessed in his own half by Ryan Leonard who forced his way forward in to the box but his prodded finish across goal was well held by Flinders.
Pools were giving the ball away too often and it finally saw them punished midway through the second half. Featherstone had initially done well to turn in to space on the halfway line but dallied too long and was tackled; Southend sprang forward to the right and Worrall was allowed to run unchallenged right in to the area and tuck a neat finish past Flinders and in to the bottom corner.
There was almost an instant reaction from Pools as Wyke found space twenty-five yards out and hit a wonderful shot towards the top corner which drew an excellent fingertip save from Bentley.
And Walker came even closer to drawing Pools level moments later when a neat move down the left involving Franks and Wyke set the midfielder up to drill a fierce shot inches wide.
The best chance of the lot fell to Franks just afterwards; a long ball in to the box was nodded down in to his path but he dragged his effort wide from twelve yards.
Worrall could have double the hosts’ lead when he won an aerial battle with Austin and the ball fell loose for him on the right of the box but he lashed his low effort across and wide.
Walker dragged an effort wide in injury time but in truth, Phil Brown’s men saw the game out in the closing stages relatively comfortably to put behind them their recent winless run on home turf.
Full Time: Southend United 1 Pools 0
Pools: Flinders, Duckworth, Collins, Harrison, Austin, Featherstone, Walker, Crooks (Richards 56), Wyke (Harewood 79), Franks, Schmeltz (Fenwick 56).
Subs not used: Holden, Bates, Hawkins, Jones.
Southend United: Bentley, White, Thompson, Prosser, Worrall, Timlin, Corr, Hurst, Bolger, Leonard, Payne.
Subs not used: Smith, Atkinson, Clifford, Coulthirst, Layne, Deegan, Matsuzaku.
Attendance: 5,436 (168 Pools fans)
Booked: Timlin, Austin, Fenwick