A STRING of fine saves from Port Vale goalkeeper Chris Neal meant Southend United had to settle for a 0-0 draw at Roots Hall this afternoon.

Neal made a number of excellent stops in the first half and Gavin Tomlin was twice denied by the woodwork.

And that meant Blues picked up just a point from a positive performance.

Vale also looked dangerous in the opening exchanges and, with three minutes on the clock, visiting striker Ben Williamson fired straight at Blues goalkeeper Paul Smith from 25 yards.

But Southend soon replied with Britt Assombalonga having a similar effort saved by visiting shot-stopper Chris Neal and, in the 14th minute, Michael Timlin fired well wide from 12 yards after being picked out by Sean Clohessy’s low, right wing cross.

However, Vale immediately hit back and thought they had opened the scoring just three minutes later when a close range finish from Ashley Vincent squirmed past Smith, only for the effort to be ruled out for handball.

Vincent was also booked for the unsporting behavior before Blues also came close to breaking the deadlock in the 24th minute when a well struck, 18 yard volley from Tomlin was impressively pushed around the left post by Neal.

Tomlin was causing problems just two minutes when he cut in off the right flank and fired a close range shot against the outside of the right post.

But, having survived the scares, Port Vale then almost went in front when Tom Pope played in Williamson but the striker’s shot was pushed wide of the target for a corner by Smith.

Moments later, Dodds warmed Smith’s gloves with a well struck shot from 25 yards but Blues immediately replied and, in the 36th minute, Tomlin was again denied by the woodwork as his 18 yard shot came back off the left upright.

With Southend remaining on top, Assombalonga then had an 18 yard brilliantly clawed away by Neal before the Vale keeper also did well to divert Tomlin’s curling shot from the edge of the penalty area away from goal.

Blues continued to attack, with Chris Barker having a goalbound shot blocked by Joe Davis, with Southend screaming for a penalty to be given.

Referee Gavin Ward opted to wave away the protests and Vale almost made the most of the let off in the 41st minute when Jennison Myrie Williams sped away from Ryan Cresswell and had a well struck shot blocked by Smith.

The start of the second half was far less eventful than the first and Southend boss Paul Sturrock attempted to get his side going again by bringing on Barry Corr for Hurst in the 70th minute.

The change led to Tomlin pushing pushed back on to the right flank and, shortly after the substitution, Blues almost scored when Timlin teed up Assombalonga but his 12 yard shot was pushed around the left post by Neal.

And, despite Freddy Eastwood also entering the action late on, Blues were unable to net a late winner and had to settle for just a share of the spoils.