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Southend United 2, Portsmouth 1
RYAN Leonard’s stunning injury strike meant Southend United started 2014 in fantastic fashion with a 2-1 win against Portsmouth at Roots Hall yesterday.
Leonard brought Blues back level on the stroke of half-time with a deflected effort from the edge of the penalty area which cancelled out Sonny Bradley’s opener for the visitors.
And the midfielder repeated the trick two minutes in to stoppage time when he sent a skimming 25 yard shot in to the bottom left hand corner of the net.
Portsmouth had the better of the first half and, with just two minutes on the clock, Ricky Holmes sent a low, left footed shot from 25 yards straight at Shrimpers goalkeeper Daniel Bentley.
But Blues soon hit back with Michael Timlin curling a long range shot wide of the right post with his right foot.
Moments later, Portsmouth left back Marcus Painter saw his inswinging free-kick from the right flank tipped over the crossbar by Bentley before the Blues shot-stopper did superbly well to tip Holmes’ 12 yard header around the left post.
The Shrimpers then also came close to open the scoring when the impressive Leonard charged forward following a Portsmouth corner before seeing his well struck left foot shot parried to safety by visiting goalkeeper Trevor Carson.
However, Portsmouth were soon back on top with Jed Wallace having a skimming 20 yard shot tipped around the left post by Bentley.
The Blues custodian then kept out Bondz N’Gala’s near post header from the resulting Wallace corner.
That came in the 22nd minute, just moments after Portsmouth had been forced in to making their first change of the game as Holmes, a boyhood Southend fan, was forced to come off with concussion.
He was replaced by Ashley Harris and he soon helped the visitors open the scoring as his right wing corner picked out Bradley who sent a controlled side footed finish in to the back of the North Bank net from 16 yards.
The Shrimpers soon hit back with Mark Phillips firing wide of the right post after another burst forward from Leonard before Portsmouth almost doubled their lead with Wallace having a low, 20 yard shot tipped wide of the target by Bentley.
Bradley then fired over from close range after David Connolly had flicked on Harris’ right wing corner and that sparked Blues boss Phil Brown in to action with Barry Corr replacing Anthony Straker in the 39th minute.
The change almost made an immediate difference but Woodrow’s well struck 20 yard was clawed to safety by Carson.
But Blues did not have long to wait for an equaliser as they drew back level on the stroke of half-time with Leonard grabbing his second goal of the season.
The energetic midfielder beat two men on the edge of the penalty area before unleashing a well struck shot which seemed to take a deflection before flying in to the bottom left hand corner of the net.
The stunned visitors came close to regaining the lead right away when Therry Racon saw a well struck 20 yard impressively tipped wide of the left post by Bentley.
At the start of the second half, Corr headed a right wing cross from John White wide of the right post before the Irishman sent a snap shot straight at Carson from the edge of the penalty area.
Blues boss Brown then made a second change in the 68th minute, with Freddy Eastwood coming on to replace Woodrow in attack.
But it was Portsmouth who threatened next with Joe Devera firing over from eight yards and, in the 78th minute, Wallace curled a fine 25 yard shot against the top of the crossbar.
Four minutes later, Southend made their final change with Conor Clifford replacing Will Atkinson and helped the home-side come out on top as his midfield partner Leonard raced on to a loose ball before firing home from long range to secure a dramatic late victory for the Shrimpers.