SOUTHEND United’s preparations for a first ever season in the National League continued with a 2-2 draw at Dartford this afternoon.

The Shrimpers opened the scoring at Princes Park with O’Shane Stewart firing home a powerfully struck shot.

But the Darts hit back with goals from Josh Robinson and Dan Roberts putting them in front before a late own goal from Josh Hill saw the match end all square.

The National League South side started the match on top with Tom Bonner dragging an early effort wide of the left post before Luke Allen saw a low shot blocked the legs of Southend goalkeeper Harry Seaden.

In reply, Sam Dalby stabbed an effort wide of the right post before Blues broke the deadlock in the 35th minute, with Stewart on target.

The midfielder collected the ball following a half cleared left wing corner from Louis Walsh and thundered a powerfully struck 20 yard shot into the roof of the net.

However, the Shrimpers’ lead was to be short-lived as Dartford equalised from the penalty spot just four minutes later.

Referee Aji Ajibola pointed to the spot after Seaden had gone in on Robinson and the former Billericay striker made no mistake from 12 yards with a low shot into the left hand side of the net.

Dartford wasted a great chance to take the lead at the start of the second half with Luke Allen firing wide of the right post from six yards before Darts defender Connor Essam sent a rising effort over the crossbar from 12 yards After surviving the scares, the Shrimpers made a double change in the 62nd minute with Ricky Holmes replacing Terrell Egbri and Hamzad Kargbo coming on for Dalby.

But six minutes later Dartford took the lead with one of their own substitutes, Roberts, tapping home a left wing cross from close range.

Matt Dennis, James Dunne and Rhys Murphy were soon all introduced into the action and the new look Shrimpers drew back level in the 83rd minute with Hill heading a Holmes free-kick past his own goalkeeper from six yards.

That ensured the match ended level but Blues were boosted late on as both Nathan Ralph and Lewis Gard entered the action after recovering from long injury lay-offs. 

Southend United: Seaden, Howard, Mitchell-Nelson, Davis, Sayers (Ralph 84), Egbri (Holmes 62), Ferguson (Gard 84), Stewart (Dunne 77), Walsh (Dennis 69), Dalby (Kargo 62), Rush (Murphy 77)