In a match which is likely to be David Webb's last in charge as caretaker boss - with an announcement of the new gaffer expected to be made on Thursday or Friday - Southend were, in the end, full value for their victory and can now go into a home second round tie with Lincoln City brimming with confidence.
It was the visitors, who of course had travelled just ten miles from the east, who made the early running and in just the third minute a Jay Smith through ball set Tes Bramble free and after a strong run the Shrimpers hitman saw his fierce shot parried behind by Danny potter. From the resulting Mark Gower corner Bramble headed straight at Potter.
However the Islanders, running away at the summit of the Ryman Premier League table soon took the match to their elevated oppents and on nine minutes a Jeff Minton free kick saw Ben Chenery - scorer of the equaliser at Roots Hall - bring a fine reflex stop out of Flahavan before, only a minute later, the home side took the lead. It all originated from a very harsh free kick given against Bramble which Minton chipped into the box, goalkeeper Flahavan failed to come out and claim the ball and 5ft 8in striker Lee Boylan lost his 6ft 4in marker Leon Cort to head in unmarked from a couple of yards.
However with the next decent chance of the match, on 22 minutes, the visitors fround what was, by now, a thoroughly deserved equaliser. A left wing Kevin Maher corner saw Cort jump magnificently high to head goalwards and the left knee of Bramble helped bumble the ball over the line from close range.
Having got themselves back on level terms Southend began to enjoy the best of the match and five minutes later another delivery from Maher, a free kick this time, saw Canvey defender Chris Duffy loop a header against the top of his own crossbar before Bramble, and then Jim Corbett could only fire loose balls at Potter.
Gower's superb curling 30 yard shot saw Potter pull off a brilliant save to tip the ball against the upright before a neat ball by Corbett fed Gower who drilled a shot at Potter after a shot run.
Unfortunately disater struck for Southend just a minute before the interval and in all honesty it came completely against the run of play. A long ball upfield by Potter was flicked on by John Kennedy in midfield and Minton latched onto the ball with the United defence all at sea, Flahavan made a fatal mistake in sprinting out of his area for a ball he was never realostically going to claim and Minton rounded the Blues custodian before calmly slotting the ball into thre unguarded net from 15 yards.
It was a sucker punch for Southend coming at the time it did, but United made sure they hit back in similar fashion and amazingly only twenty seconds after the re-start the shrimpers were on level terms once again. A David McSweeney ball forward saw Chris Duffy make a hash of a clearance and Smith picked up the pieces 40 yards from goal, skipped a challenge from Ty Gooden before emarbarking on a skillful run which culminated in a fantastic 25 yard low angled drive which flashed into the bottom left hand corner.
Once again, lifted by their leveller, Southend created the better chances and looked the best bet to edge in front. Just two minutes after the goal Corbett rolled a shot inches off target following good ework by Bramble before, on 51 minutes, Potter did very well to make a brave block at the feet of Gower following a neat ball by Smith.
Then, a further five minutes later Southend came even closer to taking the lead when the Canvey woodwork was rattled for a third time, Smith's looping header from a McSweeney centre beating Potter before bouncing to safety off the top of the crossbar.
The full-timers still had to be on their toes definsively though and Flahavan made a decent block from Gooden after Boylan had flicked on a Gooden free kick before an impreesive 30 yard piledriver by Kennedy saw Flahavan push the ball around the post.
Then, on 73 minutes came a most bizarre incident when referee Trevor Kettle, who had already done his best to unimpress the visting fans in particular completely lost the plot. Undoubtedly David Theobald's challenge on Bramble was enough to concede a free kick, but nobody could really believe it when Kettle instantly flashed a red card at the dumbfounded Theobald, however the official then changed his mind and awarded the ex-Ipswich Town defender just a yellow card.
It wasn't long however until the almost predictable sending-off did evetually arrive. Mark Warren was presumably cautioned for dissent in the first half after protesting about the free kick which led to the home sides opening goal and he recieved his marching orders for a second booking after accidently catching Boylan with his arm. Boylan certainly went down easily but a clumsy challenge by the Blues defender meant that the last five minutes, plus another three minutes for stoppages, had to be fulfilled with just ten men.
Amazingly Kettle failed to spot an incident in the Gulls penalty area when Chery grabbed Bramble by the neck before forcefully pushing the striker away. The official on the near side saw it, but despite a lengthy chat United were not awarded a spot kick - for the incident took place while the ball was in play - and amazingly referee Kettle not only spoke to the innocent Bramble but also Steve Ward who of course wasn't the Canvey player who committed the offence
Southend had the last laugh however, and with extra time approaching, snatched a dramatic winner in the third minute of stoppage time. Kettle could have awarded a free kick for a blatant foul on Corbett but unusually the whistle did not sound and Smith reacted the quickest the curl a fantastic shot past Potter and into the roof of the net from 20 yards to win the tie and send the Shrimpers followers behind the same goal into delirium.
United now face Lincoln City at Roots Hall on Saturday, 6th December in the Second Round.
Lee Boylan 10
Referee: Trevor Kettle
..Tesfaye Bramble 22
Steve Ward --
Ben Chenery --
David Theobald --
Total Goal Attempts
Shots/headers on target
shots/headers off target
TLG Man Of The Match - Tesfaye Bramble
Bramble put in a superb performance. The big striker of course netted the Shrimpers first equaliser but he was all over the pitch, defending well when need be and drifting out, when required to both the left and right flanks. Caused problems all evening.
F.A. CUP FIRST ROUND REPLAY - Wednesday, 19th November 2003.
Attendance: 2,731 (approx 700 away fans)