SOUTHEND United slumped nearer the National League with a 1-1 draw at Morecambe tonight.

A second half volley from the Shrimps’ Cole Stockton cancelled out Timothee Dieng’s opener for Blues.

And, despite digging deep to avoid defeat against their promotion pushing hosts, the Shrimpers now sit five points from safety with just six games to go.

The second from bottom Blues opted to start with the recalled Greg Halford as a lone striker and the visitors threatened early on with Reeco Hackett-Fairchild sending an early long range effort wide of the left post.

But the Shrimpers were not to be denied for long and broke the deadlock in the 18th minute, with the returning Dieng on target.

The Frenchman had controversially missed the Shrimpers’ last two matches after being adjudged to misled the match officials when winning a penalty against Scunthorpe United.

However, Dieng went straight back into the starting line up and made an instant impact as he headed an excellent right wing cross from Elvis Bwomono into the right hand side of the net from 12 yards.

Moments later, Nathan Ferguson saw a 25 yard free-kick gathered by Shrimps goalkeeper Kyle Letheren before the hosts hit back with Cole Stockton firing wide of the left post from a narrow angle.

Stockton then sent a low effort wide of the same upright from 20 yards before Harry Davis headed a clearer chance over the crossbar from close range.

After the break, Stockton had a powerful effort parried away by Southend goalkeeper Mark Oxley but the striker continued to threaten and levelled the scores with a well-taken effort in the 56th minute.

The forward reacted sharply after a right wing cross from Aaron Wildig was deflected into his path and netted with a neatly taken 20 yard shot which flew into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

Blues immediately responded by making their first change of the night as Ricky Holmes replaced Ashley Nathaniel-George out wide.

But Morecambe remained on top with Wildig sending a well struck effort over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area.

After surviving the scare, Southend hit back with Dieng neatly controlling a right wing cross from Shaun Hobson before having a smartly struck 20 yard shot smothered by Letheren down to his left hand side.

In a further bid to improve, Blues made a double change in the 75th minute with Kyle Taylor replacing Jason Demetriou in midfield and Emile Acquah coming on for Greg Halford in attack.

But, despite also throwing Tyler Cordner up top in the closing stages, the Shrimpers were unable to make a late breakthrough and remain in deep trouble, with their 100 year long stay in the Football League now looking almost certain to come to an end.