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Southend United 2, Brentford 1
SOUTHEND United surged through to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy southern section semi-finals with a shock 2-1 win over League One Brentford at Roots Hall tonight.
Goals from Tamika Mkandawire and Kevan Hurst put Blues a step closer to a Wembley final.
And the hard fought victory also made it nine games without defeat for Paul Sturrock’s in form side.
Despite the end result, it was Brentford – who had lost just one of their previous 17 games – who were on top early on but they struggled to create too many clear cut chances.
The closest they came to scoring was in the 13th minute when midfielder Sam Saunders fired just past the right post with a well struck left footed shot from 25 yards.
However, five minutes later, Blues also almost broke the deadlock when Hurst’s driven right wing cross picked out Barry Corr who headed the ball wide of the right upright from 12 yards.
But Blues were not to be denied the game’s opening goal and went in front in the 27th minute, with Mkandawire scoring his first goal since August 2011.
The on loan Millwall midfielder picked the ball up on the edge of the penalty area after Hurst’s right wing cross had been headed in to his path.
And, after neatly bringing the ball on to his left foot, Mkandawire sent a deflected low shot in to the bottom left hand corner of the net.
The Bees almost netted an immediate equaliser when Harry Forrester’s long range shot was parried out by goalkeeper Paul Smith but Paul Hayes was only able to fire the resulting rebound wide of the right post when he should have done better.
Forrester’s powerful effort proved to be his last involvement in the game as he then limped off to be replaced by former Blues loanee Antonio German.
The young striker first involvement saw him fire a low, 25 yard shot straight at Smith but, having survived the scare, Southend hit back to make it 2-0 in the 40th minute of the match with a stunning goal from Hurst.
The Blues winger picked up the ball 25 yards from goal and sent a superb shot arrowing in to the top left hand corner of the net.
Southend took that advantage in to the second half and the visitors almost got back in to the game in the 54th minute, following a mistake by Smith.
The experienced shot-stopper, who was facing his former side, palmed a left wing cross from Saunders in to the path of German whose first effort was blocked by Luke Prosser before he somehow sent the rebound wide of the right post from close range.
Blues should then have killed the game off in the 67th minute when Britt Assombalong rounded Bees goalkeeper Simon Moore before passing to Corr.
But the tall targetman sent his 12 yard shot against the underside of the crossbar.
Brentford almost made the Irishman pay immediately for his miss when German sprinted clean through before slicing a 12 yard shot off target.
Moments later, a long range shot from Saunders was pushed wide of the left post in unconvincing fashion by Smith who then pulled off a fantastic save by tipping away a close range shot from Hayes.
However, Smith was beaten in the 85th minute when a long ball forward from Hodson sent Hayes through on goal and the striker, who grew up in Wickford, made no mistake with an assured finish from 12 yards.
That set up a frantic finale, with Smith superbly tipping away a Saunders free-kick during injury time, as Blues hung on to secure their place in Saturday’s draw.