Blues began May in 14th place, finally assured of Third Division safety as first freefalling York City and then Carlisle United were erased from the Football League list for 2004/5. There were, however, still two matches remaining, the first of which took place at Spotland, home of Rochdale. In a typically end-of-season encounter, ‘Dale made sure of their participation in League Two with a point, courtesy of a Gary Jones rebound after Darryl Flahavan had saved his initial penalty, awarded incredibly after Nicky Nicolau had blocked a cross with his right thigh. Leon Constantine had scored his 26th, and last, goal for the Shrimpers earlier in the second period with a 35 yard shot that Neil Edwards inexplicably allowed to cross the goal line.
Manager Steve Tilson and Paul Brush had the seals put to their two-year contracts after having been guaranteed them for saving Blues in March. Even better news arrived when Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott agreed to plans submitted by DIY firm B&Q to build a new warehouse on the site earmarked for Fossetts Farm. This now gave Ron Martin all the incentive he required to submit plans for Southend’s proposed new stadium on the same derelict wasteland.
On the eve of the final game of the season against Torquay United at Roots Hall, right full-back Duncan Jupp signed a one-year extension to his existing contract. He was then joined amongst the ranks of Seasiders for 2004/5 by Carl Pettefer, who made a dramatic signature on the pitch at half-time in the game itself, hobbling onto pitchside on his crutches to complete the deal from Portsmouth, just promoted into the Premiership. Harry Redknapp, Pompey’s then manager, had ripped up the final year of his paperwork at Fratton Park.
Unfortunately, in front of nearly 9,000 supporters on the final sunny Saturday of the season, Blues could not stop the Gulls juggernaut from blasting into League One on the outside rail from Huddersfield Town, who would eventually prevail through the play-offs. Southend dominated, but still slipped to a club record eleventh home League defeat of the campaign, Steve Woods tapping in on three minutes and David Graham nodding in on the ground eight minutes later. Lawrie Dudfield tapped in the rebound to a Tesfaye Bramble shot on 17 minutes before being blatantly pulled over by Reuben Hazell, but the Gulls clung on to give their 3,000-strong support, Helen Chamberlain et al, reward for their long trip to Essex.
Two days later, The Little Gazette learnt of the death of John Duffy, aged 74. The Scottish wing-half made 114 appearances for Southend, scoring seven times and enjoying two benefit matches in 1959. Back in the present, Tilson told goalkeeper Ryan Robinson and mercurial winger Steven Clark that they were surplus to requirements, whilst offering new contracts to Constantine, Kevin Maher, Leon Cort and Jay Smith.
At the start of the following week, local lad Dave McSweeney predictably left the club having spent the final few weeks of his Shrimpers career on loan at Welling United, eventually teaming up with ex-Shrimpers defender Justin Edinburgh at Billericay Town. Jamie Stuart (now with Grays Athletic) and Neil Jenkins (Crawley Town) on the left-hand side were also released, with Leke Odunsi predictably retiring from the game after suffering yet another debilitating injury against Huddersfield Town after netting his only United goal in the same October clash.
Meanwhile, central defender Andy Edwards returned to Roots Hall after spending nine seasons away with Barry Fry at Birmingham City and Peterborough United – where he was also captain – and then teaming up with Brian Talbot at Rushden & Diamonds. It was with some surprise that he was allowed to leave Nene Park having completed 44 games in just over a season with the relegated club. Left-back Nicky Nicolau then put pen to paper on a one-year contract with the Shrimpers.
The very next day, our friends at Hull City Online, the Tigers’ footyMAD portal, revealed that former Blues player and manager Peter Taylor was ready to swoop for club captain Kevin Maher, who has always been highly rated by other clubs during his time with the southeast Essex side, and defender Leon Cort. The latter was destined to move later in the year, whilst another one-time Hull target, Leon Constantine, was on his way - not to the Kingston Communications Stadium, but instead choosing Fry’s money at London Road. He would not be missed…
Newsround (click on headline for full story):
Sat 01 May | Tilson and Brush Offered Long-Term Deals
Sat 01 May | Blues Can Do It Now Prescott Has B&Q’d It!
Fri 07 May | Shrimpers Start To Sort It For Next Season
Sun 09 May | John Duffy 24th August 1929 - 4th May 2004
Wed 12 May | Tilly Continues Contract Crusade
Mon 17 May | End Of The Road For Quartet
Mon 17 May | Ex-Shrimper Returns To The Hall
Mon 17 May | Arsenal Youngster Makes Move Permanent
Tue 18 May | Old Boss To Swoop For Shrimpers?
Sat 22 May | Constantine Departs For Posh
Results Service (click on match for full TLG report):
Sat 01 May | Rochdale | D1-1 | 3591 | Leon Constantine
Sat 08 May | Torquay United | L1-2 | 8894 | Lawrie Dudfield