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Port Vale 1, Southend United 2
SOUTHEND United kept alive their play off aspirations with a vital 2-1 victory at Port Vale this afternoon.
First half goals from Sean Clohessy and Britt Assombalonga handed Blues a hard fought triumph.
And that made it a memorable day for Southend’s stand in boss Graham Coughlan who took charge of the team in place of the unwell Paul Sturrock.
Southend started brightly and enjoyed more of the ball in the opening exchanges.
But their dominance was not rewarded until the 19th when skipper Clohessy fired Blues ahead from the penalty spot.
The spot-kick was awarded by Darren Sheldrake when Darren Purse was adjudged to have brought down Matthew Lund as he attempted to reach a right wing cross from Assombalonga.
And that enabled Clohessy to fire home a fantastic 12 yard shot in to the top right hand corner of the net as Southend finally ended their first half goal drought.
Blues had previously gone 12 matches without scoring in the opening 45 minutes but Assombalonga soon wasted a golden chance to double his side’s lead.
A quickly taken Bilel Mohsni free-kick sent the on loan Watford running through on goal but he strangely delayed shooting and that enabled Purse to recover and scramble the ball for a corner.
Moments later, Assombalonga headed Ryan Leonard’s left wing cross on to the roof of the net but the striker finally worked his way on to the score-sheet in the 31st minute.
The striker showed good strength to muscle Purse off the ball and then fired a deflected 16 yard shot in to the right hand side of the goal for his 14th strike of the season.
Blues then almost made it 3-0 right on the stroke of half-time but a powerful 20 yard from Leonard bounced back off the crossbar with Vale goalkeeper Chris Neal well beaten.
The hosts responded by making a double change during the break with John McCombe replacing the hapless Purse in defence and Chris Birchall coming on for Jennison Myrie-Williams in midfield.
But Southend still remained on top and, in the 53rd minute, Bilel Mohsni headed over a deep right wing cross from Clohessy.
Moments later, Vale replied with Birchall having a deflected six yard shot tipped over the crossbar by Blues goalkeeper Paul Smith.
However, Southend were not to be let off for long and, in the 64th minute, Chris Shuker’s right wing cross picked out an unmarked Lee Hughes who headed the ball in to the left hand side of the goal from 12 yards.
Vale pushed hard for an equaliser after Hughes’ header, with Birchall sending a low shot straight at Smith before the Blues goalkeeper did well to keep out a well struck close range volley from Hughes.
In a bid to get his side back in to the game as an attacking force, Blues’ stand in boss Coughlan made a double change in the 84th minute with Neil Harris and Barry Corr entering the action in place of Mohsni and Assombalonga.
They helped Blues see more of the ball and, right at the end, Harris almost made it 3-1 but he fired wide of the right post after being teed up by Leonard.