SOUTHEND United staged a stunning late fight back to secure a 2-2 draw with Bradford City at Roots Hall this afternoon.
Blues seemed to be heading for defeat when the Bantams raced in to a 2-0 lead.
But goals in the last 10 minutes from Ryan Cresswell and Gavin Tomlin handed Paul Sturrock’s side a dramatic share of the spoils.
Bradford, who came in to the game after beating Arsenal in the Capital One Cup, started an entertaining encounter brightly and, with six minutes on the clock, they wasted a great chance to open the scoring as Billy Meredith’s left wing cross picked out James Hanson.
But the tall target-man could only head over the crossbar from six yards.
Blues hit back with Cresswell heading a right wing corner from Kevan Hurst inches over the crossbar but the Bantams soon came even closer to taking the lead when Gary Jones’ right wing free-kick was headed against the underside of the crossbar by Hanson.
Having survived the scare, Southend replied with Tomlin teeing up Michael Timlin with a neat flick inside the penalty area but Timlin’s low shot was well blocked by the legs of Bradford goalkeeper Matt Duke.
Moments later, Blues’ recalled goalkeeper Paul Smith easily kept out a low 20 yard shot from Will Atkinson but, in the 27th minute, the Bantams went in front with Nahki Wells grabbing his 15th goal of the season.
The speedy striker saw his initial blocked by a sliding Luke Prosser but the rebound fell kindly for the in form forward who was left with the simple of task of tapping in to an empty net from inside the six yard box.
Southend almost levelled six minutes later when Britt Assombalonga headed a right wing cross from Sean Clohessy just past the right post and, in the 43rd minute, Tomlin shot wide of the same upright after an impressive ball in the box by Timlin.
After the break, Southend again came close to equalising when Hurst cut in off the right flank and sent a 25 yard shot inches wide of the left post from 25 yards.
Prosser then shot just wide of the opposite upright after Hurst’s right wing cross had been cleared in to his path but the centre-back found the back of his own net in the 64th minute.
The defender was trying to deal with a low, right wing cross from Will Atkinson but only succeeded in firing the ball in to the bottom left hand corner of the North Bank goal from six yards.
Blues attempted to get back in to the game with Tomlin having an effort diverted wide of the left post by Duke and, in a further bid to improve his side, boss Paul Sturrock made his first change of the afternoon in the 69th minute with Barry Corr coming on to replace Tamika Mkandawire.
Bradford initially remained on top with Atkinson having a 20 yard shot tipped over the crossbar by Smith but, in the 80th minute, Southend got back in to the game with Cresswell headed home a right wing corner from Hurst.
Blues were now pushing hard for an equaliser and Assombalonga almost found it with a deflected 20 yard shot which flew just wide of the left post.
But, in the dying seconds, Southend made sure of a point when Tomlin latched on to a long ball forward and fired home from 12 yards to complete a fine come back for his side with his ninth goal in nine games.