King's Lynn denied a point by late Southend penalty in the National League
Southend 2 King's Lynn Town 1
Manager Tommy Widdrington saw red as brave King's Lynn Town were robbed of a point at Roots Hall by a late penalty.
The Linnets took the lead when Harry Phipps – signed on loan from league rivals Dagenham on Thursday – scored with a diving header in the first half only for Norwich City loanee Matt Dennis to equalise for the home side early in the second half.
Battling Lynn looked set for a deserved point against a resurgent Shrimpers outfit until referee Lloyd Wood handed the hosts an injury-time penalty which Sam Dalby duly converted.
The penalty award was extremely harsh on Lynn after Ross Barrows appeared to win the ball cleanly from Dalby. Widdrington was subsequently dismissed for his protests as Lynn saw their first point of 2022 cruelly snatched from their grasp.
Phipps was handed his debut at the heart of the Lynn defence alongside Ross Barrows and Ethan Coleman as Lynn went in search of their first point of 2022.
Theo Widdrington also returned to the side at the expense of Malachi Linton, but Zain Walker had to be content with a place on the bench after returning to the club earlier in the week.
The hosts started on the front foot with Norwich City loanee Matthew Dennis and midweek signing Harry Caldwell causing Lynn all kinds of problems with their power pace.
The Shrimpers carved out the first opportunity after eight minutes when Tom Clifford skied an effort over the woodwork from a few yards out when he should have done better.
Will Atkinson then saw his goalbound effort deflect off the body of Ross Barrows a few minutes later as the Essex outfit continued to boss the early stages.
Sam Dolby's attempt was then blocked in a congested penalty area as Lynn continue defend deep and in numbers during the opening quarter.
Lynn had to wait until the 24th minute before creating a chance of any note as Gold Omotayo used his strength to advance into the home penalty area before forcing Steve Arnold into an acrobatic save.
And three minutes later they stunned their hosts by taking the lead against the run of play as Theo Widdrington delivered a delightful ball from the right and Phipps was on hand to head home past a stranded Arnold at the near post.
Shaun Hobson's goalbound header was brilliantly turned over the woodwork by Paul Jones as Southend responded to going behind.
Despite being under pressure for long periods of the half Lynn offered more of an attacking threat as the interval approached.
Aaron Jones saw a pinpoint delivery scrambled cleared while Widdrington tested the reflexes of Arnold on the half-volley.
The busy Jones was called straight into action early in the as he rebuffed an effort from Dalby two minutes after the restart.
And the hosts were back on level terms just a minute later after a brilliant touch from Hobson took him past two defenders down the right and allowed him to cross for Dennis to apply the finishing touches.
A long-range snapshot from Widdrington had Arnold sprawling to his left after Lynn had weathered the home storm early in the second half.
Midway through the half, a Harrison Neal screamer looked in all the way but Jones was equal to it by acrobatically turning it over his woodwork.
Lynn still remain someway adrift in the bottom three of the National League standings but have shown enough in recent games to suggest they will do everything possible to maintain their league status.
Southend: Arnold, Ralph, Hobson, Dalby, Clifford, Atkinson, Neal, Lopata, Davies, Dennis (Husin 78), Cardwell (Ferguson 90+3). Subs: Andeng Ndi, Rush, Kensdale, Husin.
Scorer: Dennis 48.
King's Lynn Town: P. Jones, Clunan, Coleman, Omotayo, Widdrington, McGavin (Sundire 68), A. Jones, Barrett, Barrows, Scott (Denton 70, Walker 85), Phipps. Subs not used: McFadden and Charles.
Booked: A. Jones, Denton, Barrows.
Scorer: Phipps 27.
Referee: Lloyd Wood.
Assistants: Craig Green and Craig Simpson.
Fourth Official: Craig Barnett.
Attendance: 6,122 (85 from King's Lynn).