Mark Quayle is the only player in a decade that Scarborough have spent money on and their manager, Russ Slade, believing he was overvalued at £3,000, asked Nuneaton to cut the amount by a third.
Last night the 25-year-old Merseysider repaid his fee two-hundredfold. With a few desperately tense minutes of this third-round replay remaining, he ran in to slide home Jimmy Kelly's low cross and earn the Conference club a home tie with Chelsea which is worth around £400,000. It will keep the club running for two years and may even fund another transfer.
Once the cameras had been eased out of the dressing-room, Slade could focus on the scale of his achievement. "The odds were against us overturning another League club but that's three scalps we've got," he said. "We have never reached the fourth round before and it's nice to be able to make a little bit of history for a little seaside town. This was our semi-final; Chelsea will be our Cup final."
It was not exactly an act of giant-killing, sitting third from bottom of the Third Division, Southend are not even all that tall but the arrival of Roman Abramovich's millionaires a week on Saturday will cast a towering shadow.
With adverts for McCain and the town's Grosvenor Casino towering over the pitch, not to mention a home tie with Chelsea, the chips in every sense were down for Scarborough. They seized their jackpot with some hard running and constant searching for the through ball, tactics which were to give them three clear chances.
The first fell to Quayle, who chose to dribble around the goalkeeper, Darryl Flahavan, and lost possession, while Scott Kerr drove against the advertising hoardings. The third time it was Ashley Sestanovic, on loan from Sheffield United, who found himself dashing goalwards. His manager at Bramall Lane, Neil Warnock, who steered Scarborough into League football, was watching as the striker's shot clattered against Flahavan's legs. Eight minutes later he flashed a free-kick just wide. This was not a victory snatched against the run of play.
As they faced the numbing, tortuous journey back from the Yorkshire coast, Southend's supporters would have lingered on Leigh Walker's saves just as much as their own sometimes ponderous play. Walker is a former boxer from Barnsley and yesterday he was ruggedly defiant. His first save was awkward, turning aside Leon Constantine's long-range effort which bounced nastily in front of him and turned out to be the only shot on target landed by either team before half-time. The second was brilliant and instinctive, somehow turning Neil Jenkins' shot, stabbed home from close range, on to the top of the bar seven minutes after the restart. It was a match-winning save.
Five years ago, Scarborough's supporters were all on the pitch of the McCain Stadium as news came through that the Carlisle goalkeeper had scored and they had been relegated from the Football League. Now they were on the pitch again, this time overwhelmed by joy.
Scarborough: (4-4-2) Walker; Lyth, Cryan, Baker, Hotte; Kelly, Whitman, Kerr, Marcelle; Sestanovic, Quayle. Substitutes not used: Sollitt (gk), Capper, Williams, Downey, Senior.
Southend United: (4-4-2) Flahavan; Jupp, Cort, Hunt, Stuart; Gower (Clark, 86), Smith, Maher, Jenkins (Knightly, 89); Bramble (Corbett, 86), Constantine. Substitutes not used: Robinson (gk), Warren.
Referee: B Curson (Leicestershire).Reuse content