Fleck to the rescue

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Southend United 1 Norwich City 1

Robert Fleck salvaged a deserved equaliser for Norwich against their relegation-threatened opponents at Roots Hall last night with just three minutes left.

The former Scottish international, who joined the action as a substitute in the 64th minute, forced the ball home from a yard out after the Southend goalkeeper Simon Royce had failed to hold on to a Kevin Scott header following a corner on the right.

It was just reward for the visitors who dominated for long periods, but failed to make the most of the their chances. Neil Adams, Andy Johnson and Mike Milligan were all guilty of squandering opportunities from a few yards out before Southend snatched a surprise lead five minutes in the second half.

That goal arrived following a terrible blunder by the Norwich goalkeeper Bryan Gunn. Andy Thomson's shot from the edge of the box should have posed little difficulty, but somehow Gunn, going down to his left, fumbled the ball and it crept into the net at the far post.

After that Norwich piled on the pressure in an attempt to get level and Royce pulled off two magnificent saves to deny Darren Eadie. Norwich's misery increased 10 minutes from time when Milligan was sent off for a second bookable offence after he had brought down Thomson.

But just when it looked as though Southend were going to celebrate a crucial victory, Fleck struck to maintain his team's hopes of a play-off place.

Southend United: Royce; Harris, Dublin, McNally, Roget, Poric (Byrne, 81), Gridelet, Marsh, Boere (Rammell, 81), Thomson, Hails. Substitute not used: Williams.

Norwich City: Gunn; Newman, Jackson, Eadie, Scott, Sutch, Adams, Rocastle (Bradshaw, 89), Ottosson (Fleck, 64) Johnson, Milligan. Substitute not used: Mills.

Referee: B Knight (Orpington).