All square at Roots Hall

With the backing of 791 travelling fans, Cambridge United earned a 0-0 draw against Southend United on their first visit to Roots Hall since 2004.

Richard Money made four changes to the starting line-up after Tuesday’s defeat to Tranmere Rovers. Ian Miller, Johnny Hunt, Liam Hughes and Matt Harrold came into the eleven in place of Michael Nelson, Dominic Ball and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, who were all among the subs, and Robbie Simpson who missed out altogether. Southend were unchanged from their 2-1 loss at Burton on Wednesday.

The U’s forged the first opportunity when Ryan Donaldson won a corner and Josh Coulson met Johnny Hunt’s cross with a firm header which he could only direct straight at goalkeeper Dan Bentley.  Southend won a flurry of corners which came to nothing, while on 19 minutes the influential Ryan Leonard thundered an effort from outside the box which Ian Miller managed to get in the way of. Chris Dunn was called into action to deny David Worrall when he also let fly from distance, while at the other end Donaldson’s excellent cross was tipped over by Bentley before it could reach Elliott at the far post.

Six minutes before the break Donaldson was again involved and provided a deep cross from a short corner which presented Matt Harrold with a difficult chance which the forward volleyed wide.The half ended goalless, Southend having enjoyed more territory but the U’s having got into good positions going forward as well.

Harrold had United’s first chance of the second period, heading Hughes’ free-kick into Bentley’s arms moments after Worrall flashed a cross-shot across the face of goal for the hosts.

Joe Piggott looked to break through for the hosts just before the hour but was denied by an important deflection which took the ball behind for a corner. He was then replaced by Jack Payne, while Dominic Ball came on for Matt Harrold soon after.

There was a moment of concern on 68 minutes when Luke Prosser took the full force of Ryan Donaldson’s freekick when standing in the defensive wall. He looked to be knocked unconscious, with players from both teams immediately calling for medical attention for the Southend defender. After a delay of several minutes he was taken off on a stretcher, to warm applause from all ends of the ground.
Elliott fired onto the roof of the net when play resumed when Donaldson teed Liam Hughes’ through ball up for him. Dunn was called upon to save low from sub Will Atkinson, having just made a good claim from Ben Coker’s corner.

Besides that, chances were hard to come by in a tight game. Josh Coulson made a heroic header from a corner in the last minute of the 90, throwing himself at Adam Thompson’s goal-bound header, with Elliott back in his own box to clear the corner that followed.

Deep into stoppage time, after six minutes were signaled, Southend nearly stole a winner when Liam Hughes made a poor contact on his header back to Dunn, who had to make a desperate double save at the feet of Jack Payne and Atkinson. They had to deal with another corner at the very death but did so and secured a well-earned point against their promotion-chasing opponents.

U’s line-up: Dunn; Tait, Miller, Coulson, Dunk; Donaldson, Hughes, Champion; Harrold (Ball 63), Elliott.
Subs not used: Slew, Norris, Nelson, Morrissey, Mendez-Laing, Kaikai.

Southend line-up: Bentley; White, Thompson, Prosser (Binnom-Williams 73), Coker; Hurst (Atkinson 31), Leonard, Timlin, Worrall; Pigott (Payne 60), Corr.
Subs not used: Smith, Weston, Deegan, Cassidy.

Referee: Brendan Malone.
Attendance: 7,224 (791 away)