SOUTHEND & EMT started the Premier Division season with a rain affected draw against Brentwood at Southchurch Park.

Southend survived relegation on the final day of the previous campaign and have their work cut out to avoid a similar battle this time around after an administration error saw them handed a 25 point deduction before a single ball had even been bowled.

But, at the weekend, Southend got their league campaign underway against a strong Brentwood side who batted first.

Skipper Aaron West opened the innings for the visitors and scored a fine 81 while Tom Oakley, batting at number four, ended 63 not out.

However, both of their scores were beaten by a fantastic display from opener Guy Balmford who finished 104 not out.

His fine innings helped Brentwood finish on 283 for the loss of just two wickets in 44 overs of batting.

Carl Lees was the pick of Southend’s bowlers as he took both of the Brentwood wickets to fall.

He ended with figures of 2 -37 from seven overs with both of his dismissals coming courtesy of catches from wicket-keeper Tom Phillippe who is also captaining the team this season.

In reply, Southend lost wickets at regular intervals.

Opening batsman Lees was dismissed for four while Oliver Wagstaff - who also opened - was out for 18.

Charlie Lockhart - who was batting at number three following his summer arrival - made just four.

However, skipper Phillippe provided more resistance before he was out for 25.

Phil Gray failed to trouble the scorers before Lewis Wright was out for just eight.

But Joe Robbins - who skippered Southend until the end of last season - then took centre stage.

Robbins batted calmly and ended up on 55 not out as Southend avoided an opening day defeat.

Alongside him, Azlan Bhuiyan also produced some good shots before being dismissed for 20.

He was replaced by Adam Rendall in the middle and he ended on eight not out to ensure Southend picked up a draw.

The game was regularly interrupted by the wet weather which disrupted both team’ progress in their opening encounter of the campaign.

And that frustrated Southend skipper Phillippe.

“It was a very tough game to start against title contenders,” said Phillippe.

“There was plenty for us to learn and improve on but it was frustrating to get held back by the weather. We wanted to be out there and showing what we can do.”