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Southend United 2, Macclesfield Town 0
GOALS from Peter Gilbert and Neil Harris secured Southend United a 2-0 victory over Macclesfield Town at Roots Hall this afternoon – but not automatic promotion.
Blues went in to the final day shoot-out with an outside chance of a top three finish and comfortably cruised to their fourth win in five games.
However, Paul Sturrock’s side had to settle for fourth and a place in the play-offs after promotion rivals Crawley Town won 1-0 at Accrington Stanley.
That left the Sussex outfit one point above Southend in the final standings but Blues will still be hoping to join them in League One next season.
They now face in-form Crewe Alexandra over two legs and go in to the games in good shape after beating the Silkmen.
But, despite being rooted bottom of the table without a win in 2012, Macclesfield started brightly at the weekend and were almost gifted a fifth minute lead when a poor back header from Bilel Mohsni was collected by Ben Tomlinson.
However, Blues’ on loan shot stopper Cameron Belford raced off his line to deny the Town striker.
Southend replied with Michael Timlin shooting straight at Town keeper Jose Veiga from the edge of the penalty area before he also kept out a deflected effort from Neil Harris.
Moments later, a low 20 yard shot from Freddy Eastwood was also kept out by Veiga who then also did well to parry out Timlin’s shot from a similar distance.
Harris’ follow up effort from the resulting rebound was diverted for a corner by Macclesfield defender Nat Brown.
And, from the subsequent Ryan Hall flag-kick in the 24th minute of the match, Blues opened the scoring as Gilbert sent a cushioned 12 yard volley in to the bottom left hand corner of the net.
The strike handed the defender his third goal of the season and Southend almost doubled that lead 10 minutes later when Harris teed up Mohsni whose fine left footed volley was fantastically tipped over the crossbar by Veiga.
In reply, Tomlinson then fired a tame volley in to the grateful gloves of Belford before a deflected effort from Daniel flew just inches wide of the left post in the final action of the first half.
After the break, Eastwood fired an ambitious 25 yard shot off target with his left foot and, in the 58th minute, the on loan Coventry City striker went even closer to scoring after his prodded close range shot was blocked by the legs of Veiga.
Harris created the opportunity for his strike partner and then went close to netting himself when his looping header from Hall’s left wing cross landed on the roof of the net.
Harris remained involved when he made a fantastic opportunity for Anthony Grant with an intelligent pass but the on-rushing midfielder could only drag a 12 yard shot wide of the left post when he should have done better.
Eastwood then fired over from a promising position after doing well to create space for himself before Hall had a 20 yard volley tipped wide of the left post by Veiga.
The Portugese stopper then superbly palmed away a powerful 20 yard shot from Timlin but he was finally beaten again in the dying seconds.
The impressive keeper did well to keep out a header from Blues substitute striker Elliot Benyon but he was unable to stop Harris scoring from the rebound as the striker tapped home from close range.