Injustice fuels late flurry – Southend 3-0 Oldham

Southend v Oldham

Southend v Oldham

A BURNING sense of injustice spurred Southend United onto a fourth straight win against Oldham Athletic and referee Kevin Johnson at Roots Hall.

The Roots Hall crowd were frustrated for more than an hour by a resolute and physical Oldham side and some of the most breathtakingly inconsistent officiating seen at Roots Hall for many a year, and in a season when the standard of refereeing seems to have plumbed new depths, that’s saying something.

But a Nile Ranger strike 15 minutes from time ended Oldham’s stubborn resistance before Theo Robinson, having made Ranger’s opener, headed a second soon afterwards to kill the game. Anthony Wordsworth’s injury-time penalty topped things off, ensuring Southend stayed three points inside the play-off places with Millwall seeing off Scunthorpe elsewhere.

Goalkeeper Christian Walton was making his debut for Southend as both first-team goalkeepers, Ted Smith and Mark Oxley, were out through injury. Walton had joined from Brighton on the morning of the match, and despite not even having met his team mates before he showed up at the Hall, looked assured when called upon.

In truth though the first half was a borefest and both sides failed to create any clear cut chances. Oldham looked the more lively and Ollie Banks was doing his best to create from midfield, but in truth the visitors lacked the invention to make the most of their possession. It was the ex-Chesterfield man who gave the half it’s only real moment of class, a magnificent dragback and turn to beat three Blues players, before his inch-perfect lofted through pass to Erwin was volleyed over by the big striker.

Southend were disappointing and created little, but were frustrated by some inconsistent refereeing which saw Wordsworth booked seconds after a high challenge on Leonard was missed, and similar fouls by Oldham players went unpunished. The Roots Hall crowd were far from impressed, and the officials required an escort from the field at half time.

Ben Coker’s neat interplay with Simon Cox almost led to the opener at the start of the second half, but the left- back fizzed a shot wide of the far post from just inside the box.

A few minutes later, Jermaine McGlashan entered the fray for the struggling Stephen McLaughlin for the first of what was to prove to be a vital trio of changes for Southend. McGlashan injected more urgency and pace to Southend’s play on and off the ball and slowly the game began to turn in Southend’s favour.

A key moment in the game came when Simon Cox timed his run perfectly to meet a through pass only to be crudely brought down by Ollie Banks. Banks was the last man by some distance and Cox would have been one-on-one with Latics’ keeper Connor Ripley, but incredibly Johnson deemed this certain red card only worthy of a yellow.

Johnson was having a nightmare and was even antagonising the home players and supporters with the little decisions such as failing to play advantages or allow quick free kicks when the visitors were clearly intent on timewasting.
Eventually Ryan Leonard, arguably the most mild-mannered player on the field, flew in recklessly on Ousmane Fane. Of course, Johnson went straight to his back pocket and reduced the home side to ten men.

It was a turning point. Oldham had come for a 0-0, a result they looked very much on course to get. This sending off put the impetus on them to try and win the game and they had absolutely no idea how to deal with it. Their intent was clear when manager John Sheridan tried to throw the ball away when he caught it on the touchline, earning a rebuke from Johnson, rather than encourage his team to go for the three points.

Michael Timlin replaced Cox to try and compensate for the loss of Leonard’s work-rate, and the earlier introduction of Theo Robinson started to pay dividends as he stretched the visitors down the left. On 75 minutes, wide on the edge of the box, the ex-Lincoln man deceived everyone by not cutting the ball back but instead turning to fire a cross to the criminally unmarked Nile Ranger, who had the simplest of tasks to tap beyond Ripley and put the home side into an unlikely lead.

Roots Hall exploded with the a sense of a righted wrong, and three minutes later, McGlashan caused more problems by drawing a foul on the right wing. The resulting free kick by Wordsworth saw Robinson lose his man at the far post and place a powerful header low into the bottom corner.

Oldham were a beaten side and despite still having 12 minutes left and an extra man, never looked as though they would trouble debutant Walton. Their excellent 280 or so travelling fans did not deserve such a negative and cynical side – they barely stopped singing throughout.

Deep into injury time, McGlashan won a tackle, beat two players and was crudely brought down when through on goal by former Shrimper Peter Clarke. Predicatably, Johnson ignored this completely until his linesman indicated he really probably ought to give one of the most blatant penalties you are likely to see. The evidence was irrefutable and, a defeated man, Johnson wearily pointed to the spot. Wordsworth sent the goalkeeper the wrong way, prompting a young fan to enter the field of play and join in with the celebrations – the players posing obligingly for a selfie before the young scamp was apprehended by some red-faced security staff.

Southend left the field to rapturous applause from the 7,400 home fans, not for the overall game which was turgid at best for 70 minutes, but for the spirit shown in defeating such unambitious yet organised opponents and an official who came as close to outright bias towards one team as you will see.

Were it not for today’s win, the Shrimpers may have been nervous going into Tuesday’s game against an in-form Bolton side who are set for automatic promotion. But the pressure has now been relieved a little, and it should be one to look forward to as an opportunity to topple another good side at home. It will be markedly different game to today, and on this evidence, Blues are up for the challenge.

SOUTHEND: Walton 7; Demetriou 7, Coker 7, Ferdinand 7, Thompson 7; McLaughlin 6 (McGlashan 8), Leonard 6, Wordsworth 7, Atkinson 6 (ROBINSON 9); Cox 7 (Timlin 7), Ranger 8.