A SPIRITED Southend United were held to a 0-0 draw at Exeter City this afternoon.

The struggling Shrimpers produced a vastly improved performance at St James’ Park.

But Phil Brown’s side were again found wanting in front of goal and they remain second from bottom in the table, three points from safety having played a game more than relegation rivals Colchester United.

After a quiet start to the game, Exeter registered the game’s first shot on target as Alex Hartridge saw his volley from a deep Jack Sparkes free-kick easily held by Blues goalkeeper Mark Oxley.

However, the Shrimpers soon hit back and soon came close to breaking the deadlock when Reeco Hackett-Fairchild cut in from the left hand side and saw his deflected effort bounce back of the crossbar.

Exeter soon hit back with Jake Taylor seeing an effort cleared off the line by Elvis Bwomono before Sparkes saw a well struck effort parried away by Oxley.

The resulting Matt Jay corner was headed wide of the right post by an unmarked Randell Williams in the closing action of the first half.

But, immediately after the break, Blues wasted a golden chance to break the deadlock as a left wing free-kick from Sam Hart found Nathan Ferguson free at the far post, only for the midfielder to head wide of the left post.

Moments later, a well struck 20 yard shot from Jason Demetriou was parried away by Exeter goalkeeper Jokull Andresson before the Icelandic shot-stopped diverted Simeon Akinola’s header over the crossbar.

After surviving the scares, the Grecians hit back with Ryan Bowman headed Matt Jay’s right wing cross over the crossbar from close range.

In a bid to get back on top, Blues made their first change of the afternoon in the 73rd minute with Brandon Goodship replacing Simeon Akinola in attack.

Four minutes later, the Shrimpers made a second substitution with James Olayinka taking the place of Ricky Holmes but it was Exeter who threatened next with Ryan Bowman cutting in from the left hand side and sending a well struck shot inches wide of the right post.

Exeter also pushed hard late on with Nigel Atanagan somehow seeing his well struck shot parried away by Oxley before the Shrimpers keeper also gathered a free header from Pierce Sweeney.

Moments later, Rory McArdle sent a last gasp header wide from close range as Blues hung on for their ninth draw in 12 games.