Southend United 1, Ipswich Town 1
AN excellent second half header from Neil Harris secured Southend United a 1-1 draw with Ipswich Town at Roots Hall tonight.
The 34-year-old striker cancelled out Lee Martin’s opener for the Championship club with a fantastic finish.
And his effort earned Paul Sturrock’s side a deserved draw following a vastly improved second half display.
Ipswich bossed the majority of the first half and, with eight minutes on the clock, their midfielder Lee Bowyer glanced a near post header from Josh Carson’s left wing cross wide of the target following a poor defensive clearance from Peter Gilbert.
Blues hit back with a fine, inswinging free-kick from Ryan Hall flying across the face of goal but, in the 15th minute, the visitors broke the deadlock with Martin netting a screaming 18 yard shot.
The former Manchester United winger cut in off the right flank and fired a fantastic left footed effort in to the top right hand corner of the net.
Moments later, Grant Leadbitter shot wide of the left post from 20 yards after Alassane N’Diaye had carelessly conceded possession and, with Ipswich remaining on top, Bilel Mohsni cleared a bobbling Lee Bowyer effort off the goal-line.
Martin then fired over a low, left wing cross from Carson but, with 38 minutes on the clock, Blues replied and registered their first effort on target with Jemal Johnson firing straight at Town goalkeeper Marton Fulop from 25 yards.
Southend then wasted an even clearer chance to score on the stroke of half-time when Anthony Grant volleyed a deep right wing cross Hall wide of the left post from close range when he should have done better.
Blues made one change at the break with Mark Phillips replacing the hapless N’Diaye in a move which saw Bilel Mohsni move up front.
With the reinforced strike-force, Southend looked far more threatening and Grant soon forced Fulop in to a save with a skimming left footed shot from 20 yards.
And, in the 61st minute, the home-side came within a whisker of drawing back level when a diving Mohsni headed a right wing cross from Harris against the top of the crossbar from eight yards.
But Blues were not to be denied and they equalised just five minutes later when Sean Clohessy broke the offside trap down the right hand side and delivered a fine cross which Harris superbly headed in to the roof of the net at the near post.
Ipswich hit back with Glenn Morris doing well to deny Jason Scotland by diving at the striker’s feet before the Blues shot-stopper then also pushed away a deflected drive from the same player.
Following Scotland’s double strike a number of heated challenges took place, with Mohsni losing his cool.
After a number of incidents, the Frenchman was finally booked for dissent in the 76th minute before he soon made way for Luke Prosser to stop him getting sent off.
The game was quietened down after Mohsni’s departure with Morris saving well from Colin Healy to ensure the game ended all square.
Chris Phillips (Southend Echo)