Date: 19th March 2017 at 8:42pm
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Jon Whitney’s Walsall are still looking for a first away win of 2017 after they squandered a 2-0 advantage to lose 3-2 against play-off chasing Southend United.

The first surprise of the afternoon came in the Walsall team news as record signing Andreas Makris started his first game since November 2016. Ex-Walsall defender Jason Demetriou was on the bench for the home side.

The game started with Southend having plenty of possession and an early Anthony Wordsworth strike flashed past Neil Etheridge’s post as Phil Brown’s side looked to seize the early initiative. The omens weren’t looking good for Walsall when top scorer Erhun Oztumer was forced off with an injury in the 15th minute. Former Southend midfielder Franck Moussa replaced Oztumer, and it was Moussa who opened the scoring as he converted Joe Edwards’ low left-wing cross with a deft finish into the far corner. Moussa, who has come in for plenty of deserved criticism this season, sensationally made it 2-0 just seven minutes later as he again finished from another Edwards cross.

Makris, Moussa and the rest of the Saddlers midfield linked up well for the remainder of the first half and Southend rarely threatened to ensure it remained 2-0 at the break.

The second-half started in a similar fashion with Southend struggling to break down a resilient Saddlers defence and it was no surprise to see Phil Brown introduce Demetriou and Theo Robinson into the action on the 52nd minute. The two substitutes instantly added some more drive to The Blues’ attack and the visitors’ backline dropped deeper and deeper to counter the pace of Robinson.

The increasing pressure told on the 63rd minute as Walsall switched off at a free-kick and Nile Ranger took advantage to head home Will Atkinson’s left-wing cross. The momentum was now with the home-side and it was only a matter of time until Southend got the equaliser, and again the goal from a set-piece. This time, a Wordsworth free-kick was defended poorly and Anton Ferdinand lashed home a volley from the edge of the box past Etheridge.

By this stage there really was only one winner, and Southend scored the winning goal after James O’Connor fouled Wordsworth on the edge of the box and substitute Simon Cox curled the free-kick beyond the reach of Etheridge.

The game fizzled out after the sensational turn-around and Whitney will now have two weeks to reflect and prepare his team for another difficult away trip to Bradford City.


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