FREDDY Eastwood finally sunk 10-man Burton Albion with a 92nd-minute winner for Southend United at the Pirelli Stadium today.
Billy Kee’s second yellow card just before half-time meant the Brewers were always fighting a losing battle, but looked like they would hold on for a point until substitute Eastwood broke the home side’s hearts.
Gary Rowett named an unchanged team for the first time this season, the only alteration coming on the bench, where Dean Lyness returned from injury to replace Kevin Poole.
There was still no place in the matchday squad for either striker Rene Howe or midfielder Adam Reed.
The first half was scrappy, with three yellow cards within the first 20 minutes, and two in two minutes.
First Kee saw yellow for a reckless challenge on Ryan Leonard after losing the ball, and then ex-Brewer Rob Kiernan, who joined the Shrimpers on loan yesterday from Wigan Athletic, was booked for kicking the ball away.
From the resultant free-kick, Ian Sharps had a great chance to open the scoring but fired wide from distance.
In a lively opening, Adam McGurk - who would later pick up that third booking for what looked a fair tackle - cut inside and tried a curling effort that was saved by Daniel Bentley.
The Brewers’ best chance came in the 18th minute when Chris Hussey’s free-kick found the unmarked head of Shane Cansdell-Sherriff at the back post, but the Australian nodded straight at Bentley, who spilled the shot but was saved by his defence.
Shortly after his booking, McGurk had a great opportunity when Kee’s flick found him six yards out, but in an attempt to backheel it goalwards, he lost the ball under his feet and Bentley claimed.
Southend started to get into the game more after that, and the imposing Barry Corr got his head to a Kevan Hurst free-kick, but Jordan Pickford saved well low down before Conor Clifford shot wide.
Their best effort came six minutes from half-time as Cauley Woodrow got the faintest of touches to a cross from the right, and Pickford - at full stretch - tipped it behind for a corner.
Then came the flashpoint, as a frustrated Kee slid in thoughtlessly on full-back Ben Coker, and the referee had little choice but to issue the striker with his marching orders.
Southend tried to make their advantage count at the start of the second-half, and Pickford had to be alert to clam two dangerous crosses as well as uncoventionally swiping away a shot with his fist.
Matty Palmer’s introduction gave the Brewers an added attacking threat and he set up two good chances, first for McGurk, whose shot was blocked, and then for MacDonald, who headed over.
But the young midfielder saved the best for himself, as he burst from his own penalty area with a fabulous run that took him into the Southend box, where he struck the post with Bentley beaten.
Albion did not look like the team with 10 men for much of the final half an hour, but were sunk when the defence backed off, and Eastwood found space for a shot that deflected onto the post and then in.