Exeter City’s six game unbeaten run came to an abrupt end at Roots Hall this afternoon.
Scot Bennett converted Pat Baldwin’s flick shortly after the break to put Exeter ahead and the Grecians looked comfortable and good value for their lead before two substitutes changed the game.
Former Grecian Barry Corr was back on the pitch after an 18 month lay-off and he put the home side level on 77 minutes before Freddy Eastwood nodded past Artur Krysiak ten minutes later to complete an unexpected turnaround.
Paul Tisdale stuck with the same team that came out on top of Tuesday’s thriller against Wycombe but made one change to the bench with John O’Flynn replacing Jacob Jagger Cane.
City’s first sight of goal came after seven minutes when the Grecians countered at pace with Matt Oakley’s finding Jamie Cureton on the right flank but his low drive was right at full debutant Daniel Bentley in the Southend goal. He tried his luck again from a similar position four minutes later but found the side netting as he searched for his seventh goal of the season.
On 20 minutes it was Cureton again who found himself with time infront of goal but his drilled effort from Oakley’s pass was comfortable for Bentley.
The home side’s first real chance came from the direct running of Britt Assombalonga down the Southend left wing and after getting to the byline his cross fell at the feet of John Spicer who fired over the bar. And three minutes later no one closed down Ryan Cresswell and he was allowed to drive a low effort just wide of Artur Krysiak’s right hand post.
On 26 minutes good work from Jimmy Keohane, bandaged up after suffering a head wound, saw him set up Cureton and his right-footed shot towards goal seemed destined for the top corner before flying just inches over and at the other end Assombalonga’s header landed on the roof of the net. And three blocks in quick succession from the City defence on the half-time whistle meant the sides went in goal-less.
After a forgettable first half it took just five minutes of the second for the opening goal to come. City enjoyed a good spell of possession which ended with Oakley’s cross from the right byline which Pat Baldwin flicked into the path of Scot Bennett who fired home a low right footed finish from inside the six yard box. It was the 22-year-old’s second of the season and his fifth for the club despite only making 21 league starts and playing in a defensive midfield position.
Five minutes later Cureton fired another right-footed effort right at Bentley after being found by a lovely through ball from Arron Davies and on 61 minutes Curo was replaced by O’Flynn, back in the squad having missed Tuesday’s night victory.
Bennett then came close to grabbing his second when he rose to meet Davies’ corner but his header his Chris Barker and deflected out for a corner. City’s Irish strike duo then combined on 71 minutes but couldn’t test the keeper, O’Flynn putting over a great cross that Keohane volleyed wide.
Just seconds later Paul Sturrock introduced former Grecian Barry Corr for his first game since April 2011 as the home side looked for their first shot on target and they had the 326 travelling fans breathing a little quicker when Prosser’s half-volley whistled over the bar.
On 77 minutes Krysiak had to make a smart double save, first he kept out Hurst with a low stop and when Assombalonga closed in on the ball he pushed his shot over the bar. But from the resulting corner the Pole was just a spectator as Corr headed home at the far post.
Tisdale responded to the set-back by introducing Tom Nichols for Keohane on 81 minutes but it was the home side that had the next chance when Assombalonga fired wide after Freddy Eastwood put him through.
And with just four minutes to go Barker crossed from the left wing and Welsh international Eastwood’s header squeezed past Krysiak at the far post to complete a remarkable turnaround by the home side, inspired by Eastwood after his introduction.
Tully was then introduced for Doherty who’d put in an impressive shift in the centre of midfield all afternoon with Amankwaah pushing on down the right. The last chance of the match saw Nichols tee up Davies and he cut inside but fired wildly over the bar.
It seems hard to put your finger on just what City did wrong, if anything. The goals were not individual errors and before the introduction of the subs, City's defence had looked extremely solid. Until the corner which ultimately lead to the opening goal the Grecians had restricted Southend to pot shots and you'd have struggled to see the home side scoring once, let alone twice. But subs so often change the complexion of games and that was certainly the case in Essex this afternoon.