Southend United 3 Fleetwood Town 3: Joey Barton’s players are pegged back with three points in sight

Fleetwood Town's Kyle Dempsey
Fleetwood Town's Kyle Dempsey

Fleetwood were denied victory late on as Stephen Humphrys notched an 87th minute leveller for struggling Southend.

The Cod Army were so close to sealing their third win in four matches – and their first on the road since the opening day success at Peterborough – only for Humphrys to secure Southend’s first point of the season close to the end of what had been a real thriller.

With Joey Barton opting to field an unchanged starting XI following the victory against Oxford United, the visitors opened impressively against a confidence-sapped Southend side.

Paddy Madden got on the end of a terrific free-kick from Danny Andrew, but Shrimpers’ keeper Mark Oxley made a smart save before the linesman flagged for offside.

Minutes later Josh Morris just couldn’t stretch enough to meet a teasing cross to the far post from Lewie Coyle.

The Cod Army were looking good in the early exchanges.

Roots Hall was being silenced by the visitors’ excellent start and Barton’s men went close again when Kyle Dempsey saw a goalbound effort bravely blocked.

It was against the run of play when Southend struck in the 17th minute.

The hosts were awarded a free-kick just outside the Fleetwood box and up stepped Stephen McLaughlin to curl a super effort around the wall and into the bottom corner.

Buoyed by their goal, Southend almost struck again minutes later when McLaughlin somehow scooped over from close in as he charged in to meet Isaac Hutchinson’s cross.

The Cod Army struck back soon after, however.

Jimmy Dunne did the business, nodding home his first Fleetwood goal as he connected with Morris’ corner.

The visitors were now the side with their collective tails up and Dempsey fired in a well-struck shot which Oxley saved well.

Fleetwood then went 2-1 up just before the interval.

Just as the half was heading into added time Morris struck, lashing in a rebound after Andrew’s initial strike had been parried by Oxley.

There was a breathtaking start to the second period at sun-drenched Roots Hall.

Just three minutes after the restart, the Shrimpers levelled courtesy of another superbly-hit free-kick, this time from Humphrys.

However, the Cod Army responded almost immediately by roaring back into the lead, this time through Dempsey who was perfectly placed to head home a pinpoint cross from Coyle.

It was end-to-end stuff now, and Fleetwood keeper Matt Gilks was called upon to make an impressive stop to keep out Sam Mantom’s effort.

Gilks then watched a little anxiously as Ethan Hamilton’s strike from distance only just cleared the crossbar.

At the other end, Town fluffed a great chance to make it 4-2 when the onrushing Morris latched on to Madden’s through ball, only to then drag a shot disappointingly wide.

Sub Harrison Biggins then saw an angled effort deflected narrowly over the top.

Biggins then nodded wide as the Cod Army were trying to desperately find that potentially victory-clinching fourth.

Humphrys had the last word, though, firing neatly under Gilks as the relieved Shrimpers pocketed their first point of the campaign.

Southend United: Oxley, Bwomono, Kiernan, Lennon, Blackman (Demetriou 69), Hutchinson (Goodship 58), Mantom, Hamilton, McLaughlin (Ndukwu 79), Cox, Humphrys. Subs not used: Hyam, Dieng, Bishop, Shaughnessy.

Fleetwood Town: Gilks, Coyle, Andrew, Clarke, Burns, Dempsey, Dunne, Morris (Souttar 80), Coutts, Rossiter (Biggins 60), Madden (Evans 69). Subs not used: Cairns, Hunter, Sheron, Saunders.

Referee: John Busby.

Attendance: 5,236.