SHRIMPERS SMELL THE PLAY-OFFS
SOUTHEND boss Phil Brown hailed a ‘massive’ win after they closed the gap to play-off chasing rivals Barnsley to just one point.
The Shrimpers upset the formbook at Oakwell, securing what was a well-deserved victory against a Tykes side who had won 11 of their previous 13 games, and their last six at home.
However, despite their unimpressive run of four losses in their previous six matches, Southend turned on the style in South Yorkshire.
A delighted Brown said: “It’s a massive win for us. In the grand scheme of things it’s a huge three points.
“We knew it would be tough for us here, and a few decisions did go against us at times, but at the end of it our game-plan has worked to perfection.
“We all know Barnsley are the form team. They are a really good side, they’ve shown that time and again recently.
“Their team is packed full of good footballers, but we’ve come here and our tactics have worked brilliantly.
“The spine of our team has won us the game. Right down the middle, from front to back, we’ve stood up to the test and we’ve got the result we deserved.”
It was an incident-packed first half at Oakwell as the Tykes – who have surged up from the foot of League One to promotion contention in recent weeks – were bidding to extend their superb run of form.
However, the home faithful were silenced after just four minutes when Jack Payne met a pass from Kevan Hurst before guiding his sixth goal of the season neatly past Adam Davies from 15 yards.
The Shrimpers then came close to doubling their lead after 18 minutes when Anthony Wordsworth saw an exquisite curling strike thump the crossbar after he had been teed up by Payne.
The Tykes fluffed a great chance to level five minutes later. Visiting goalkeeper Dan Bentley tripped Ashley Fletcher in the box, but Conor Hourihane disappointingly stroked his penalty kick wide.
Hurst almost doubled the Shrimpers’ lead shortly after the restart, but he rifled into the side-netting from close range.
Back came Barnsley, with Marley Watkins and sub Sam Winnall almost levelling, but the visitors wrapped up a deserved win courtesy of a thumping strike seconds from full-time.
Substitute Michael Timlin smashed home from 25 yards to condemn the Tykes to defeat and Barnsley’s caretaker boss Paul Heckingbottom acknowledged his side had been second best.
He said: “We had a sluggish start in the opening 15 minutes and that set us back.
“Certainly the missed penalty has proved costly. If that had gone in we’re right back in it and everyone inside the stadium is lifted.
“To be level going into half-time would have given us that crucial momentum, but I suppose at the end of the day it wasn’t to be.
“Credit to Southend. They’ve done a real job on us. They stifled us, defended really well and probably deserved to win. We just couldn’t find that breakthrough, and so the top of the division just becomes tighter and tighter.”
NO PAYNE, NO GAIN: Southend's Jack Payne celebrates scoring the opener
DISMAY: Barnsley’s Conor Hourihane
STAR MAN ADAM BARRE