Villa 1; Southend United 3
Villa and Southend United went into this game on Sunday morning clear in the knowledge that nothing less than a win would keep them in contention for the league title.
The previous week Villa had lost to Johnville and Southend were defeated at home by St Saviours. Quite simply there was no room for error by either side.
Villa have managed to keep only one clean sheet in league football this season (against Southend early in the season) and unfortunately from their point of view their poor record at the back came back to handicap them once again in this game.
Southend showed a number of changes from the side which lost to St Saviours. The twin strike force of Daniel O’Sullivan and Lee Hayes were back together for the first time in many weeks and they really came up trumps.
Paddy Dooley came back at left full-back and that allowed Lee Russell return to the middle of the park, which resulted in a much better balanced outfit. They still have a lot of work to do to catch Tramore at the top but this victory will work wonders for them.
The game was played in wet and windy conditions but early goals were the order of the day. Playing with the strong breeze, Villa took the lead after only three minutes. Left-back Danny Sheridan fired in a free kick from inside his own half to the far end of the penalty area and right-full Conor Mullane rose high to power home a strong header past goalkeeper Cliff Kearney.
Southend got back on level terms 98 minutes later. Aaron Butler went on a run down the right flank before getting the ball in low and Lee Hayes was waiting to ram the ball to the net from 10 yards as the Villa defence stood and watched.
Danny Sheridan was injured trying to stop Butler’s run and he had to be carried off. Central defender Ian Sullivan moved to left full-back with Jimmy Barry coming on. Paul Omotoso did go close for the Villa with a long-range effort on the half-hour mark but the home side did not use the breeze to their advantage during the first half.
Try and try again
Playing with the breeze, Southend made much better use of the elements and Daniel O’Sullivan caused havoc to the home defence. He almost broke the Villa upright on 54 minutes with a fierce shot from 12 yards.
Four minutes later he got on to the end of a free kick taken by Paddy Dooley but his diving header from the right went inches wide of the far upright. The Villa had only one chance during the second period. Jimmy Barry played the ball out wide left to Conor McDonald but his angled shot went narrowly wide of the far upright.
Daniel O’Sullivan went close for Southend once again with a lovely flicked header on 68 minutes following a cross from John Starmer.
If at first you don’t succeed try and try again, and Daniel O’Sullivan summed up that old saying with a delightful goal on 80 minutes. Aaron Butler laid the ball off to John Starmer who was galloping down the right wing. He picked out O’Sullivan who despite having his back to goal somehow managed to head the ball to the net in magnificent style from the edge of the box.
Aaron Butler was involved once again on 84 minutes when he played the ball to Lee Hayes from the right. The De La Salle hurler had his shot blocked by the Villa defender Declan Furlong but when the ball fell to Daniel O’Sullivan he made no mistake by crashing home his fifth league goal of the campaign.
Villa: Liam Kavanagh, Conor Mullane, Ian Hatton, Declan Furlong, Ian Sullivan, Niccky Corcoran, Ross Douglas, Paul Omotoso, Gerry Connors, Conor McDonald, Danny Sheridan. Subs: Jimmy Barry for Sheridan (12 mins), Danny Walsh for Barry (77 mins).
Southend United: Cliff Kearney, Paddy Dooley, John Starmer, Michael Caulfield, Michael Farrell, Barry Phelan, Aaron Butler, Lee Russell, Lee Hayes, Daniel O’Sullivan, Chris Feehan. Subs: Ian Caulfield for Phelan (20 mins), Brian Cusack for Farrell (57 mins), Paddy Carey for Feehan (68 mins)
Referee: Jimmy McGrath.