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Nationwide Division 3, 13.3.99, from Roots Hall, Southend:

Southend United 0

Exeter City 0

Southend were forced to hang on grimly for a point on Saturday as inconsistent refereeing reduced them to nine men for the final ten minutes of the game with Exeter City.

Southend had taken the game to the Grecians in the first half, and may well have had their noses in front at half time. However, the Shrimpers were denied by the brilliant visiting custodian Ashley Bayes who made a string of outstanding stops. The Blues also spurned their fair share of opportunities, the first coming early on when Barry Conlon found himself unmarked, but his powerful close range header was breathtakingly saved by Bayes. The Exeter keeper quickly followed this up by saving from Neville Roach with his legs.

As Southend kept up the intense pressure on Exeter's goal, Rob Newman came close with a full-blooded half volley which was destined for the top corner. However, yet again Bayes had not read the script and dived to push the ball to safety. Kevin Maher also had a powerful strike blocked by a masochistic defender. Exeter posed little threat themselves, they only had one shot on target during the first period and Melvin Capleton had little to do, apart from fending off the attentions of Steve Flack who seemed intent to keep running into him and pushing him. Paul Todd watched his angled drive fly over the crossbar and wide, but this was about as close as the Devon outfit came during the first half.

In the second half, Exeter started to look more meaningful, but they nearly went behind straight after the restart, a cross found its way to the back post where Conlon and Scott Houghton were unmarked. However, the two forwards contrived to get in each others way and in the end the tame effort was simple for Bayes. German midfielder Lars Unger was bringing some much needed flair to the Shrimpers midfield, and showed magnificent technique to show Paul Todd a clean pair of heels, then he pulled the ball back for Conlon, who shot wide from a tight angle. Shortly after, the ball fell at Conlons feet with his back to goal following a corner. His shot on the turn flew high and wide.

Exeter, having weathered the storm, were handed a lifeline after 65 minutes when Rob Newman clattered into a Grecian forward. The referee brought out the red for the popular ex Norwich man, and Southend were down to 10 men. Roach was pulled off for Burns in a defensive switch, and Southend never looked like scoring from that moment. Exeter threw everybody forward to try and score, but they never really looked like doing so, even after the 79th minute. Mark Beard, having already been booked for dissent, challenged Jimmy Gardner on the touchline. The Exeter player launched himself as high as he could, and Beard was sent from the field. And then it was nine. Incredibly though, Exeter could not take advantage of this, and for once the Blues faithful were pleased to take a 0-0 draw. That makes it 1 goal conceded in the past 7 home games, not what you would call relegation form. Hopefully, the away hoodoo can be broken at Darlo next week.