ARAMIDE Oteh’s stoppage time penalty denied Southend United a crucial victory at Walsall this afternoon.

The Shrimpers seemed set for all three points when Simon Cox fired them in front just before the break.

But Saddlers striker Oteh netted from 12 yards to keep Blues in the bottom four with just three games to go.

After a quiet start to the game, Southend began to get on top with Harry Bunn having a close range effort well saved by Chris Dunn following a dangerous left wing free-kick from Sam Hart.

Moments later, Shrimpers midfielder Rob Kiernan saw a 20 yard volley tipped over by Dunn but the visitors remained on top and deservedly broke the deadlock in the 43rd minute, with Cox bagging his 17th goal of the season.

The striker reacted sharply after the Walsall back four had failed to deal with Mark Oxley’s long clearance and nipped in ahead of Dunn before heading home.

The Saddlers hit back with Corey Blackett-Taylor sending a deflected 20 yard effort inches wide of the right post before Blues came close to doubling their lead right before the break.

Taylor Moore reacted quickly to fire home after Dunn had fumbled Hart’s deep free-kick forward but the goal was ruled out as referee Ross Joyce had already blown for half-time.

At the start of the second, Saddlers’ top scorer Andy Cook stabbed a close range effort wide of the right post before Blues boss Kevin Bond responded with two changes in quick succession.

The first saw the fit-again Stephen Hendrie replace Hart, who was on a booking, at left-back before Luke Hyam took the place of Dru Yearwood in the centre of the park.

But, following the alterations and, with 78 minutes on the clock, the Shrimpers wasted a golden chance to score as the ball broke to Elvis Bwomono 10 yards from goal, only for the right-back to fire wide of the left post when he should have scored.

Second after the missed opportunity, Blues made their final change with Charlie Kelman replacing Bunn in attack and the youngster was soon involved, sending a low, left footed shot straight at Dunn.

Those missed opportunities ultimately haunted the Shrimpers right at the death when referee Ross Joyce controversially pointed to the spot and Oteh sent his effort into the bottom left hand corner of the net as Southend’s winless streak extended to 15 games.