Football: Garcia lays down Laws

Scunthorpe United 1 Garcia 35 Southend United 1 Burns 82 Attendance: 3,747
THE FOREIGN influence, even at this level, enlivens football and a first-half goal from a one-time junior with Real Sociedad looked to have done enough to restore Scunthorpe to the Third Division leadership yesterday, until a late Southend equaliser spoilt the script. The Essex visitors felt they had deserved a point, although naturally theirs was a partial view.

It was not one shared, certainly, by Alex Calvo-Garcia, the 26-year-old Spaniard whose 35th-minute volley may lead to unsavoury scenes in Scunthorpe High Street. Brian Laws, his manager, said: "I promised him that, if he ever scored from outside the box, I'd show my backside in the town. I suppose I'll have to honour my promise somehow."

Calvo-Garcia arrived at Glanford Park from the Spanish second division 18 months ago, having followed his girlfriend to England and content to play for virtually any club willing to have him. Laws took a chance with him and he with Scunthorpe, but all has worked out famously. Yesterday's goal was his 14th, a record that has endeared him to local fans.

It came after Rob Newman and Simon Coleman, who form an experienced core to Southend's defence, had looked capable of withstanding all the attacking pressure the home side could muster. The two had thwarted chances for both the top scorer Jamie Forrester and the former Wimbledon striker John Gayle in an opening half hour dominated by the home side, but they could not protect the goalkeeper Martyn Margetson from Calvo-Garcia's sweetly struck volley after a corner was only half cleared.

Southend become much more of a force in the second half, pegging Scunthorpe into their own half for long periods, even though their final passes were often indecisive and clear chances limited. Scunthorpe still produced the better football and would not have been denied three points if one of several marginal off-side decisions had not ruled out a goal for the impressive John Eyre, a busy midfielder, after 58 minutes, following a nice link-up between the left-back Steve Housham and the bustling Gayle.

But Southend kept plugging away and the equaliser came with a loose ball on the edge of the area put away decisively by Alex Burns, whose shot into the top right-hand corner gave goalkeeper Tim Clarke no chance.

The last few minutes were frantic and left Scunthorpe feeling it should have been their day. Forrester seemed to have legitimate claims for a penalty when he was brought down by David Morley in stoppage time.