Johnville 1; Southend United 1
Johnville and Southend United shared the spoils in what proved to be the only Premier League game of the weekend to survive the wet and cold weather. This game was in doubt one hour before the due kick-off time of 11am but thankfully a thaw allowed the pitch to be become playable and referee Anthony Walsh declared the venue suitable for the contest.
The hardy players of both sides turned in a fine display and it was a post Christmas tonic for all who were present.
Both sides gave their all in what was a tough affair, but fair. No quarter was asked or given and although the football at times may not have been of the highest order, no one could fault either team for lack of effort.
When Southend took the lead from the penalty spot in the first half one got the impression that they would then hold on for a much needed victory as their defence held firm under severe pressure in the second half but that pressure became to much for them 2 minutes from full time and it came as no major surprise when the home side equalised, albeit in somewhat fortunate circumstances.
Overall a draw was a fair outcome and in the cold light of day a point apiece could prove to be useful to both clubs.
Brian Cusack, a player who was making his Premier League debut for Southend at right full back fired in a hard low shot after only 3 minutes of play from 25 yards but the Johnville goalkeeper Dean Purcell got down well to hold the debut boy’s fine effort.
Brian Cusack was back in the thick of the action once again 4 minutes later. This time he swung over a well directed free kick from the right on to the head of Gavin McLawrence but again Dean Purcell was equal to the task. Johnville began to settle after their rather slow start and on 15 minutes Gavin Phelan sent over a free kick from the left to Liam O’Meara but his overhead kick went inches over Sean Walsh’s crossbar.
Sean Walsh then produced a fine save from another Gavin Phelan free kick on 18 minutes after Michael Farrell had fouled Pat Brown 29 yards from goal. The visiting goalkeeper was having a busy period at this stage and he had to be at his best again after 27 minutes.
Anthony Phelan played the ball forward to Paul Cleary who got to the right endline before pulling the ball back to Pat Brown but Walsh did brilliantly to smother Cleary’s cross. Johnville were dreadfully unlucky not to open the scoring on 35 minutes.
Gary Kelly raced down the left wing before picking out Anthony Phelan with a fine ball, a ball which Phelan controlled before unleashing a hard strike at goal but the ball came crashing back off Sean Walsh’s right upright with the goalkeeper well beaten.
Two minutes later it was Southend who took the lead. Kristian Walsh played the ball forward from just inside the Johnville half of the park. Lee Hayes went in search of the ball but he was fouled inside the penalty area by Liam O’Meara and referee Anthony Walsh had no real option but to point to the spot.
Daniel O’Sullivan came forward to take the penalty and he crashed the ball past Dean Purcell who dived the right way but O’Sullivan’s spot kick carried far to much power. It remained 1-0 in favour of the visitors to the half-time break.
Late, late strike
Johnville came out with fire in their bellies for the second half and they pinned United back for long periods. After 48 minutes Gary Kelly picked out Pat Brown who chested the ball down to Anthony Phelan but his effort went narrowly wide of Sean Walsh’s right upright.
Plenty more Johnville pressure continued to mount at the Southend defence and after 66 minutes Paul Cleary rose high to meet a Michael Heffernan free kick from the left but his header was saved by Sean Walsh. On 73 minutes Gary Kelly cut in from the left but his shot on the run went into the side netting.
Shortly before that Paul Carey had a decent chance for United but he shot weakly at the home goalkeeper Dean Purcell. With only 2 minutes remaining it looked odds on that Southend would go home with all the points on offer but disaster struck for them at that stage.
Gary Kelly made a mess of a corner kick from the left by hitting the ball high and well outside the penalty area. Anthony Phelan however somehow managed to get the ball back into the crowded penalty area and from 12 yards range Liam O’Meara, the player who had conceded the penalty atoned for his error by poking the ball to the net past the unsighted Sean Walsh.
That brought the curtain down on the tough contest. Paul Carey did have a half chance for United in injury time but he lost control of the ball in front of goal.
Johnville: Dean Purcell, Declan Phelan, Shane O’Brien, John Kennedy, Liam O’Meara, Gavin Phelan, Paul Cleary, Michael Heffernan, Anthony Phelan, Pat Brown, Gary Kelly. Sub.: Steven Dwyer for Gavin Phelan (65 mins).
Southend United: Sean Walsh, Brian Cusack, Colin Fanning, Michael Farrell, Daniel O’Sullivan, Paul Carey, Kristian Walsh, David Croke, Gavin McLawrence, Lee Hayes, Paul Quilty. Subs.: Patrick Carey and Chris Feehan for Hayes and Kristian Walsh (72 mins).
Ref.: Anthony Walsh.