Southend United Complete Unbelievable Comeback to Dent Portsmouth’s Automatic Hopes

Southend United
Simon Cox of Southend United during Sky Bet League One match between Southend United and Bradford City at Roots Hall Ground, Southend, England on 18 August 2018. (Photo by Action Foto Sport/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A Simon Cox hat-trick inspired League One strugglers Southend United to perform an unlikely comeback against high-flyers Portsmouth. This point is invaluable to Chris Powell’s side as they creep away from the relegation zone. Meanwhile, Portsmouth are without a win in six and blew a perfect opportunity to go level on points with Barnsley in the automatic promotion places.

Southend United Force Pompey’s Blues to Continue

In recent weeks Kenny Jackett’s side’s shaky run of form has disrupted their promotion push. Pompey were three goals to the good after half an hour thanks to goals from Morris, Close and Hawkins but threw away such an emphatic lead. It looked as though the die was cast and Portsmouth were home and dry, but Southend had other ideas.

Chris Powell’s switch to five in midfield made the Shrimpers more compact and confident in possession. Youngster Michael Klass replaced the injured Stephen Humphrys, leaving Simon Cox to lead the line. The Irishman’s header before half-time was instrumental in giving Southend a glimmer of hope, which came before a composed penalty and his deft leveller.

Portsmouth fans will be concerned with this recent run of form and left fearing that automatic promotion is slipping away from them. Southend United fans will be delighted that their side demonstrated character and bite, something which has been severely lacking recently.

Relegation Fears Mounting for Powell’s men

Despite this draw feeling like a victory, the reality is that a point does not alleviate Southend’s growing relegation fears. Having played two games more than most relegation-threatened sides and sitting six points off the bottom four, Blues fans will be nervously looking over their shoulder.

With a substantial and ever-growing injury list, a relegation battle is looking increasingly possible. With Stephen Humprhys hobbling off in the first half, he joins Mark Oxley, Ben Coker, Rob Kiernan, Jason Demetriou, Harry Lennon, Harry Kyprianou, Stephen Hendrie, John White, Luke Hyam, Sam Barratt, Harry Bunn and Tom Hopper who are far from full fitness.

Despite these many absences, this performance signifies many positives. Firstly, Southend finished the game strongly with five academy products which highlights their strength in depth. It will also give fans hope that despite missing so many crucial players their side have the resolve to stay in the division.

A cruel fixture list has also landed the Blues in this precarious position, having faced four of the top six in four of their last five games. The 4-0 demolition of Bradford three weeks ago indicates that they are not relegation candidates and that there is too much talent for the Essex outfit to engage in a relegation scrap.

Doing Things the Hard Way

In the not so distant past, Chris Powell’s side looked comfortable in League One and a push for the playoffs wasn’t inconceivable. Portsmouth looked destined for the automatic promotion places but, like Southend, inconsistency has been their Achilles heel.

Portsmouth should have killed the game off but their early momentum completely faded in the second half. This complacency perhaps explains why Barnsley have leapfrogged them in the automatic spots; Pompey will need to re-discover a good run of form if they are to finish any higher than the play-off places.

Next Saturday Southend face Accrington Stanley in the league, which will be a prime opportunity to prove their credentials and edge away from the relegation zone. This resilient display against one of the league’s top sides proves their potential, which is something that will need to be built upon moving forward.

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