Crawley made one change from their first away win in over a year at Oldham, as Jake Hessenthaler came in for Dannie Bulman to make his debut in Crawley’s first league meeting with Southend since 2011-12.
The Reds enjoyed a very early chance as Nadesan got in behind Southend’s defence, but he could only fire wide under pressure.
Then the Shrimpers nearly led with a stunning solo attempt from Elvis Bwomono, who lifted a delightful touch over the head of Josh Doherty before forcing a good save from Glenn Morris. And soon after Crawley missed a great chance, when Doherty sent a dangerous cross into the box which just evaded Tom Nichols on the stretch.
Crawley did eventually break the deadlock with a clever free-kick routine, which saw Jake Hessenthaler roll the ball across to an unmarked Ashley Nadesan, who planted his first-time effort into the bottom corner to give the Reds the lead in the 20th minute.
The Reds could have doubled their lead soon after with a swift counter-attack, when from Southend’s corner, Nadesan played a great ball over the top to Tyler Frost, who was thwarted by a point-blank save from Mark Oxley.
Jason Demetriou sent a first-time long range effort down the throat of Morris, and Nathan Ralph headed a great Tom Clifford free-kick just over, as the Shrimpers searched for the equaliser.
Hessenthaler had his shot blocked after some brilliant work on the left side from Nichols and Josh Doherty, as the Reds went into half-time with a one goal lead.
In the second half Crawley continued to press, as Nichols got inside his man to head Francomb’s delightful cross narrowly wide.
Southend were then presented with a gilt-edged chance, as some great football saw Emile Acquah played one-on-one with Morris, who pulled off a brilliant point-blank save to deny the Shrimpers an equaliser.
The Reds continued to dominate when Nichols’ low cross came all the way through to Frost at the back post, who leant back and fired well over from close range. Shortly after the Shrimpers had a good chance when Brandon Goodship found space for a shot from 20 yards, but Morris was equal to the low drive.
Southend finally equalised late on when Terrell Egbri picked out Nathan Ralph, who volleyed in on the stretch as the Shrimpers’ pressure finally paid off on the 85th minute.
Crawley were denied a winner in added time as Ricky German couldn’t knock the ball past Oxley from close range as the two sides had to settle for a point each.
Crawley Town: Morris, Francomb, Craig, Tunnicliffe, Doherty, Ferguson, Hessenthaler, Frost, Allarakhia (Powell 58’), Nadesan, Nichols (German 83’)
Southend United: Oxley, Bwomono, Lennon (Dieng 76’), Hobson, Clifford (R. Taylor 73’), Egbri, Demetriou, K. Taylor, Ralph, Goodship (Gard 89’), Acquah