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Southend United comeback against Brentford sparks mixed feelings
TWO headers from Barry Corr secured Southend United a 2-2 draw with League One Brentford in a pulsating FA Cup third round clash at Roots Hall on Saturday.
The Irishman bagged a brace to help Blues fight back from 2-0 down against the Bees.
But, at the final whistle, it was difficult to know whether or not Paul Sturrock's side should be happy with the result.
On the plus side, Southend produced a vastly improved performance against a strong side from a higher division who had lost just one of their last 16 outings.
And they also showed incredible fighting spirit to come back from 2-0 down to avoid what would have been a third successive defeat.
However, Blues had more than enough chances to have won the tie at the first attempt and can rightly feel disappointed not to have triumphed.
Gavin Tomlin, in particular, endured a frustrating afternoon in front of goal against his former side and wasted a number of opportunities to hit the back of the net.
Corr also had an early header saved by Brentford goalkeeper Simon Moore from close range while Marc Laird and Michael Timlin also came close to scoring during the first 45 minutes.
As a result, it was hard not to think Blues had wasted their best chance to work their way in to the fourth round of the competition, especially as Brentford have gone 13 games without defeat at home and have not lost at Griffin Park since being beaten by Yeovil Town in August.
Southend have also not won away against the Bees in 23 years but, whatever may happen in the replay, they will be wanting to maintain the level of their performance against the Bees in their pursuit of promotion back in to League One.
For, if Blues can continue to play to that standard on a consistent basis, they are likely to remain up towards the top of the table.
Keeping the influential Marc Laird has also increased the chances of success and he was again in impressive form on Saturday.
The former Manchester City trainee has strengthened the Southend side in the centre of the park and Alex Woodyard also did a good job on his return to action at the weekend.
The youngster fully warranted his inclusion in the starting line-up after the form he showed earlier on in the season and again did enough to justify his inclusion against the Bees.
The product of the club's youth system understandably tired towards the end of the tie having not played much football in recent weeks but he definitely has something to offer the senior side.
Whether or not that could be for every game at this stage of his career remains to be seen and Sturrock may well need to bring in someone else as a replacement for Tamika Mkandawire in a defensive midfield role.
Mkandawire has now returned to Millwall after his loan spell at Roots Hall came to an end and the results during his short stay again underlined the importance of a defensive midfielder in the modern game.
His reading of the game and ability to win the ball back for his side is likely to be missed but Woodyard showed some promising signs on Saturday and Blues have done well to keep hold of their other two influential loan signings, Britt Assombalonga and Laird.
That bodes well for the remainder of the season but the draw against Brentford has added another game to Southend's already busy schedule.
Blues also remain involved in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy as they travel to Oxford United in the southern area semi final tomorrow night.
But the focus must remain on the league and trying to secure promotion.
Last season, cup defeats at this stage of the year against Swindon and Oldham severely disrupted Southend's momentum and had a knock on effect on their league campaign.
That ultimately played a part in Blues narrowly missing out on a promotion and such a scenario must be avoided this time around if 2013 is to be a year to remember for everyone connected with the club.