A Matt Richards equaliser from the penalty spot secured a deserved 1-1 draw for Cheltenham Town here at Roots Hall this afternoon.
Cheltenham Town started this game well and threatened numerous times as McGlashan and Roofe caused problems amongst the Southend defence but it was Phil Brown's team that drew first blood through Kevan Hurst minutes before half time and against the run of play. Cheltenham played well in the second half but rarely threatened Bentley's goal except for long range efforts and set pieces but a last minute handball from Straker gifted the Robins a penalty which Matt Richards finished off to confirm a draw.
A point deserved for Cheltenham Town and the travelling fans were sent home happier than they thought they may have been. Seven games unbeaten in the league and in dramatic fashion.
A busy week for Mark Yates and the Robins saw three members of personnel brought in on loan in midweek but it was only Kemar Roofe that made the starting XI to become the 199th Cheltenham Town player to represent the club in the Football League. Connor Goldson and Toby Ajala would have to wait for their chance but there were recalls for Jermaine McGlashan and Byron Harrison here at Roots Hall today. Sam Deering, Terry Gornell and Jamie Cureton were the unlucky few to drop to the bench.
Both Cheltenham and Southend had ten wins apiece from 25 games between the club in all competitions but they were in very different positions in the league table going into today's game. Phil Brown's Southend unit were sat in 3rd whilst the Robins were down in 16th. However both sides were experiencing an upturn in form over the last few weeks and the travelling Cheltenham support were hoping a six league game unbeaten run could be stretched here today, albeit preferably with victory.
It was a good start to the game with Jermaine McGlashan showing his pace off well with a bursting run down the left but Southend were quick to tighten the defence up and the ball was cleared. It was Southend with the first real effort of the game but Timlin's poor effort was dragged wide of goal before Cheltenham hit strike back with another good attack led by the pace of McGlashan but Harrison couldn't quite steer in the loose ball. It was a promising start for Mark Yates' side and debutant Kemar Roofe tested Daniel Bentley in the bottom corner of his goal following a great move down the left from Richards and McGlashan. That pressure was kept up by the Robins and a foul on Jermaine McGlashan on the corner of the box gave them an ideal chance to get another effort in on goal. David Noble's curled effort was deflected by Timlin but again Bentley was on hand to rescue his side with a strong hand.
The Robins had started well with good early pressure but Southend were growing into the game as we approached the half hour mark. Despite that the Robins had a great chance to take the lead when Harrison drew Bentley off his goalmouth before slipping the cross back across the box but McGlashan's studs failed him and he couldn't capitalise on the opportunity. The hosts hit straight back on the counter attack and Will Atkinson sped past Elliott before lining up for a shot at Scott Brown's near post but Troy Brown was on hand to make a saving tackle. Barry Corr had been deemed well enough to play ahead of this game today and he almost had a goal after 33 minutes as he found himself space inside the area and in front of goal but he scuffed the shot and Brown comfortably, and thankfully, gathered the ball up in his gloves.
Minutes before half time and Cheltenham found themselves a goal down after the ball was knocked through the legs of Troy Brown. Robins goalkeeper Scott Brown was forced to come off his line and make a good save from Hurst but the winger's second effort put it beyond the Robins keeper and into the back of the net for the opening goal. It was an unlucky scoreline for the Robins who had performed admirably throughout the half but chances would now need to be taken in the second half if Cheltenham were to take anything from this game.
Half Time: Southend United 1-0 Cheltenham Town
An early chance for Barry Corr threatened to give Cheltenham the start they dreaded in this half but the striker's touch proved too heavy in front of goal and the defence were able to hound him away from danger. The Robins certainly hadn't been passengers in this game but they were facing a tough task to get back into this game and even start to this second period only served to highlight that. A freekick for Yates' side on the corner of the box gave David Noble the opportunity to get Cheltenham back on level terms and his strong hit was punched clear by a desperate Bentley. The Robins did have the ball in the back of the net on 63 minutes when Harrison's through ball to McGlashan allowed the winger to cross in for Richards who bundled the ball in but the linesman had risen his flag to deny the midfielder.
A long range effort from John White threatened Brown's goal by inches as Southend looked to grab another goal but on 72 minutes the skipper Russ Penn emerged to replace Kemar Roofe in an effort to change the flow of the match but Phil Brown immediately withdrew Marc Laird for Conor Clifford. Cheltenham were certainly attempting to test the lines of Southend but they were struggling to find a meaningful effort on goal. Some lovely skill from Jombati allowed him to put a cross into the feet of Harrison and the striker's pass to Taylor was a good one but the midfielder's effort was quickly blocked by Prosser and cleared.
The introduction of Russ Penn had certainly installed a spark into the side but the midfielder was shown a yellow card for a thumping challenge on Prosser ten minutes from time much to disgust of the home crowd who were screaming for red. Mark Yates' second substitution of the afternoon soon followed and it was Gornell replacing Jason Taylor - a move designed to get more action in front of the Southend goalmouth. It was almost Matt Richards who made something happen however as the midfielder skipped his way past two defenders but he couldn't pull the trigger and neither could Harrison when collecting the loose ball. Frustration was growing but Cheltenham were running out of time very quickly.
Four minutes additional time were on offer at the end of this match but Cheltenham rarely offered anything going forward in those precious remaining seconds apart from an over hit and very wide volley from Byron Harrison. The loyal fans who had travelled almost 150 miles to Roots Hall to see there team were preparing themselves for a long journey home with nothing before Anthony Straker took matters into his own hands - quite literally.
The winger's arm was held aloft in the area and blocked a Jermaine McGlashan header with the referee pointing to the spot. Matt Richards stepped up, held his nerve and smashed the back into the back of the net for the equaliser and a deserved point. The final whistle soon followed to a chorus of boos from the home crowd but the Robins will have been pleased with a dramatic end and another point.
Full Time: Southend United 1-1 Cheltenham Town
Southend United FC (4-5-1): Bentley (GK); White (C), Kiernan, Prosser, Coker; Hurst (Thompson 88), Atkinson, Timlin, Laird (Clifford 73), Straker; Corr
Subs not used: Smith (GK), Phillips, Payne, Njie, Reid
Cheltenham Town FC (4-5-1): S. Brown (GK); Jombati, T. Brown, Elliott (C), Braham-Barrett; Taylor (Gornell 81), Noble, Roofe (Penn 72), Richards, McGlashan; Harrison
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Goldson, Deering, Ajala Cureton
Referee: Mr. Trevor Kettle
Attendance: 5,677 (106 from Cheltenham)