In the early stages, both sides struggled to put many flowing moves together, as they got used to new players, new tactics and the very muddy conditions. Gradually though, the Love Southend XI appeared to be gaining the upper hand, particularly winning the aerial battle in midfield. As LRBC came under pressure, they had to be content with just a couple of break-away moves that led to very little. With such a narrow midfield, LRBC relied on Barter pulling wide on the right and Pickford surging forward from left back to provide some much needed width.
A couple of moves down the left hand side threatened to cause Love Southend problems, particularly when Pickford and Bayliss combined with a back heeled one-two. Bayliss cut the ball back to Sexton on the edge of the box, but he was unable to get a convincing shot away. The breakthrough came shortly afterwards, in the 19th minute, when Darren Bird won a throw in on the left, level with the edge of the Love Southend penalty area. Sweeney came up to take the long throw, which Love Southend failed to deal with and the ball was allowed to bounce in the six yard box before Barter pounced to drive the ball home left footed from close range.
Despite the goal, Love Southend continued to press forwards and looked set to find an equaliser with a series of throw ins and corners that LRBC eventually cleared to safety. LRBC though showed a renewed confidence after the goal and Barter in particular looked dangerous on the ball. He had another chance cutting in from wing and trying his luck with another left footed effort from the edge of the penalty area, but this one sailed a long way wide. Pickford was starting to find more space breaking forward from left back and was in good positions on a number of occasions. Mernick finally put him in during one attack, but the defender lacked composure in the final third and sliced his 25 yard strike well wide of the post.
LRBC seemed to have doubled their lead on 23 minutes, when Darren Bird was put through on the left hand edge of the penalty area. He burst through past the last man and showed great awareness to pull the ball square to Bayliss who finished in the empty net, with keeper Nagle stranded. However, a very late call from the referee cut short the LRBC celebrations, as Bird was deemed to have been offside from the original ball through.
After surviving this scare, Love Southend showed a greater determination to get back into the game and after 27 minutes a ball over the top caused LRBC problems. Sweeney was unable to climb high enough to head clear and Jon Rossi snuck in behind him. Despite pressure from Pickford, the striker coolly collected the ball, drove into the box and slotted it past Prince from 12 yards out.
Neither side was able to create any more clear-cut chances and at half time, the teams went in 1-1.
At the start of the 2nd half, LRBC reverted to a more familiar 4-4-2 formation and the change looked set to pay dividends early on as the side spent the first 10 minutes camped in Love Southend’s half. LRBC continued to threaten down both flanks, with Barter continuing to cause problems on the right and Jones taking up a wider position on the left to combine with Pickford. Despite creating a number of half chances, they failed to find a breakthrough and the Love Southend team were gradually able to claw themselves back into the game. Rikki Prince was called into action on couple of occasions as Love Southend tried their luck from distance, with Dan Crook looking particularly threatening.
With 25 minutes to go, Pickford was replaced by Jon Howley in a straight swap. LRBC started to dominate again and eventually found a way past the Love Southend defence with 16 minute to play. Sexton won the ball in midfield, where he was fouled by Jon Gurel. The resulting free kick was clipped to the left edge of the penalty area where Jones climbed highest to head down to Barter who volleyed the ball cleanly past the keeper to restore the lead.
There was a renewed urgency in Love Southend’s play, as they looked for another equaliser and LRBC were forced onto the back foot, but still looked to threaten on the counter-attack. The best chance fell to Bayliss, who was put through on the edge of the penalty area. With only Nagle to beat, he put his first effort straight at the keeper and as he tried to control the rebound, the keeper did well to pounce on the ball and deny the striker his first goal for the club.
Pickford returned to the action to replace Paul Smith and the LRBC side saw out the final 10 minutes of the game without looking in any serious danger of letting the lead slip.