With a place in the play-offs already guaranteed, Southend went into this fixture against Oxford with an outside chance of making an automatic promotion place and were hoping to follow up on their impressive 3-0 victory over Barnet last time out.
With the Shrimpers unbeaten since Good Friday’s defeat to Bradford City, they took on a resilient Oxford team whose form had slipped of late with only one win in their last six outings.
The game started brightly for the U’s and the first chance of the game fell to former Shrimper Dean Morgan. The move came from Jon-Paul Pitman who made an attacking run down the right flank before knocking the ball into the path of the unmarked Morgan who saw his low effort saved by the feet of on-loan keeper Cameron Belford.
This chance seemed to spark Southend into life as they began to play the attacking football that showed Oxford why they had been in the top seven for the vast majority of the season.
The Oxford defence stood firm until the 19th minute with a strike that the defence could do nothing about. With Michael Duberry committing a foul 25 yards out from goal, up stepped Ryan Hall who was going to try his luck. His free kick flew past the wall and then straight past Ripley in the Oxford goal before hitting the back of the net sending the near-sell out travelling supporters into raptures.
With Southend shaking the Oxford defence they went on the search for more goals and doubled their advantage through the controversial but Blues fans favourite Bilel Mohsni. After scoring a hat-trick against Barnet, Mohsni secured his 4th goal in half as games with a glancing header evading the diving efforts of Connor Ripley. Gilbert and Ferdinand exchanged clever play from the throw-in before the eventual cross from Gilbert found the head of Bilel Mohsni and the Southend faithful went into party mode with Southend seeming to but all secure the three points at the Kassam Stadium.
The Shrimpers could have had three before the half was over with Neil Harris’ delightful chip over the on-rushing Ripley cleared away inches before going over the line by U’s defender Duberry.
Oxford nearly pulled a goal back just before the arrival of half-time when Whing fired another low effort towards Cameron Belford who got down and met it to palm it away with the referee to moments later blow his whistle for the interval.
With half time team talks over, Chris Wilder’s certainly worked as Oxford came straight out of the blocks to give Southend an early scare. Morgan this time expertly working his way past several defenders before his tame shot fell graciously into the arms of Cameron Belford.
On the hour mark the travelling Southend fans had heard the news of Hereford’s goal at Crawley which most certainly brought the Shrimpers back into contention of an automatic place on the final day in a week’s time. However news soon travelled that Torquay had taken the lead over play-off hopefuls Crewe Alexandra which would make things a lot harder on the final day for Southend.
Back to the action on the pitch and it was Oxford who had the slight momentum but lacked the attacking ability to find their way into the back of the net. A free kick which went inches over the bar and also a strike from Morgan tested the Southend defence but never worked Belford.
With results elsewhere improving at the Broadfield stadium for Southend, chants for Crewe to score soon followed as they desperately hoped for the news to filter through. Action in the second half for Southend was very minimal in front of the Oxford goal but nearly put Oxford beyond sight with 10 minutes to go with Bilel Mohsni missing the target by a matter of inches with a downwards header.
With the referee blowing his whistle for the final time the game finished 2-0 to the Shrimpers who completed their treble over Oxford this season. The travelling faithful remained behind to applaud their team when the news they had so desperately waited for finally arrived. Crewe Alexandra had stolen a point in the dying minutes at Plainmoor which sent the colourful Southend fans ecstatic after celebrating what could be their last away game of the season with a comfortable 2-0 victory. Now all we have to do is win on Saturday and hope both Crawley and Torquay slip up to be promoted.