Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting ECHONEWS to 80360, or email us »
Oxford United 2, Southend United 0
TEN man Southend United suffered a 2-0 defeat at Oxford tonight, to make it the club’s worst start to a season in 20 years.
Not since 1992 have Blues kicked off a campaign with three successive defeats.
But, after midfielder Michael Timlin was sent off after just 27 minutes for two bookable offences, Paul Sturrock’s side were always going to be up against it at the Kassam Stadium.
And the U’s made the most of their extra man with substitute Tom Craddock bagging a second half brace to help the home-side come out on top.
Despite the eventual disappointment, Southend were initially on top and the lively Gavin Tomlin almost put them ahead in the 22nd minute when he charged down an attempted clearance from U’s goalkeeper Ryan Clarke – only for the ball to fly inches over the crossbar.
However, that was as close as Blues were to come to scoring and, just 60 seconds after the near miss, Timlin picked up his first booking of the evening for a late tackle on Oxford right back Damian Batt.
And, five minutes later, Timlin saw red after being shown a second yellow card by referee Oliver Langford who adjudged the midfielder to have tripped U’s Southend born winger Jake Forster-Caskey.
The second caution seemed quite harsh but led to Timlin being sent off for the first time since March 2007 when playing for Swindon Town at Grimsby.
Following Timlin’s dismissal, Blues reorganised with Kane Ferdinand dropping back in to a midfield role.
But Oxford immediately attempted to get on top, with Deane Smalley having a close range effort from Adam Chapman’s right wing free-kick well saved by Blues goalkeeper Cameron Belford.
Smalley then fired wide of the left post from 12 yards when he should have done better and, on the stroke of half-time, Sean Rigg’s powerful header was superbly saved by Belford down low to his right hand side. During the interval, Craddock replaced Lee Cox in the Oxford midfield and, in the 54th minute, it was the substitute who put the home-side in front.
Alfie Potter was the creator as he charged down the right wing before delivering a low, near post cross which Craddock fired home at the near post.
With Oxford now piling on the pressure, Belford then did superbly well to tip a low shot from Sean Rigg around the right post and, with 61 minutes on the clock, Craddock sent a well struck effort fizzing over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area.
Four minutes later, Blues boss Sturrock made a double substitution in a bid to get his side back in to the game with Ryan Hall and Britt Assombalonga replacing Ryan Leonard and Kevan Hurst.
But it was Oxford still pushing forward as Alfie Potter deceived Mark Phillips with a fine piece of skill before firing a 12 yard shot against the outside of the right post.
Sturrock responded by making his final substitution of the evening in the 77th minute with Chris Barker coming on for the disappointing Anthony Straker.
However, Oxford continued to attack with Craddock having a well struck shot impressively saved by Belford before Rigg embarrassingly fired wide from close range.
Oxford were not to be denied a second goal though and it came just three minutes from time when Craddock turned Ryan Cresswell and fired home a powerful 12 yard shot to end a run of six successive defeats against Blues.