Southend United 1-0 Burton AlbionAs a prelude to a play-off semi-final between the same two sides Southend United's 1-0 win over Burton Albion gave little away from either side as both teams played out a cagey affair at Roots Hall. Barry Corr's 22nd minute header was all that seperated the two sides as the big striker got on the end of Kevan Hurst's cross but in truth this was a typical end of season affair.
With the start of the play-offs just a week away and Burton's place more than secure Gary Rowett opted to take a safety first approach to the final game of the regular league season away to possible opponents in the end of season race for Wembley. Ian Sharps and Billy Kee were not risked and did not make the trip to Roots Hall. With Sharps not involved Phil Edwards moved across to partner Marcus Holness in central defence with Davd Gray installed at right back. Chris Hussey, recalled from his loan spell at Bury in the week, came back into the side at left back. Michael Symes came back in as the lone striker with five across midfield seeing Marcus Harness make his full Albion debut on the right wing, Ashley Hemmings patrolling the left wing with the midfield triumvirate of Lee Bell, Robbie Weir and Matty Palmer making up the central midfield.
Unsurprisingly the opening stages were a cagey affair with both sides loading the midfield intent on not conceding much to their opponents. It took until the 11th minute for either side to really create a chance and when it came it was from the long throw of Ryan Leonard with striker Barry Corr getting his head onto the ball first to guide a header wide of the far post.
At the other end Hussey was brought down to earn the Brewers a free kick and Ashley Hemmings looped a header from Matty Palmer's delivery into the arms of Daniel Bentley who grabbed the ball underneath is crossbar.
The opening goal came for the Shrimpers on 22 minutes through that man CORR. Kevan Hurst found space on the left to deliver a teasing cross and the tall Irishman was able to rise unchallenged to head past Lyness who got a hand to the ball but was powerless to keep it out from close range.
Albion quickly had a chance to respond but Robbie Weir was unable to control his shot. Hussey again won a free kick down the left and taking the kick himself he swung the ball in to the far post when Michael Symes was able to head the ball into Weir's path but leaning back the Irish midfielder scooped the ball well over the bar.
After Weir had lost out in a battle in the penalty area Southend responded by going close themselves as good work in midfield found Will Atkinson on the edge of the box but his curling effort went wide of the upright.
Weir was looking like Albion's best threat bursting from midfield and an incisive ball from Phil Edwards found the midfielder making a trademark run but Bentley was out smartly to smother the shot as Weir tried to hook the ball home.
Neither goal was seriously threatened in what remained of the first half meaning the hosts took a slender lead into the break.
Half time: Southend United 1-0 Burton Albion
Both sides looked lively in the opening exchanges of the second half. Marcus Harness drifted inside and had a shot at goal only to see the ball blocked on the edge of the area and when Southend broke down the middle, Ryan Leonard took aim and fired straight at Lyness who eventually clung onto the ball.
The home side looked likeliest to add to their lead and full back John White side-footed a low effort from the edge of the box that the Burton keeper was relieved to hang on to.
Just before the hour mark Albion made a double change with Zeli Ismail introduced on the right in place of Harness and Dominic Knowles was asked to take over the lone striker role from Michael Symes.
Ismail was quickly involved with a teasing run down the right and Knowles was unlucky to see Bentley beat him to a bouncing ball after an excellent ball over the top sent the striker scampering into the box.
Kevan Hurst tested Lyness with a low shot before firing over the bar from a similar position as the hosts tried to make their domination count.
Ismail was given a great chance to equalise when Hussey and Palmer quickly took a short corner that allowed the latter to race into the box before teeing the Wolves loanee up for a curling effort that was never seriously troubling Bentley.
Hussey was given a chance to test Bentley on 80 minutes and his curling free kick had the Southend stopper at full stretch to tip the ball over the bar.
Alex MacDonald, on as a substitute for skipper Lee Bell tried his luck from 40 yards out but this one failed to trouble the keeper.
With the game in the final minute of normal time Albion produced probably their best move, a superb curling cross from Ismail met by the head of Knowles who saw his effort blocked away for a corner by defender Jakub Sokolik with Knowles appealing in vain that there was the use of a hand in completing the clearance.