IT was heartbreak for Accrington Stanley as they lost their opening clash against Southend to a late penalty.

The Reds looked on course to pick up a point against the promotion favourites until referee Andy Haines pointed to the spot for the second time on 85 minutes.

Debutant keeper Luke Simpson had saved Barry Corr’s 46th minute spot kick but he could do nothing about Lee Barnard’s 85th minute penalty which nestled into the bottom corner of the net.

It was agony for the Reds who had started well, hit the woodwork and had limited title hopefuls Southend.

In the early stages, Simpson denied the Shrimpers Conor Clifford from close range while, at the other end, Stanley striker James Gray worked his way into the area and hit the post with his deflected effort.

A Josh Windass back heel set up Gray but his finish was wide in a decent position while Corr, scorer of the winning goal when the two sides met in April, dragged an effort wide.

Simpson, signed from Oldham in pre-season, was enjoying a superb debut and he did well to tip over Myles Weston’s shot after the Southend man ran free into the area.

Windass almost ended the half in style for the Reds with a 30 yard chip which wasn’t far off the top corner of the net.

Then came the penalty decision just one minute after the restart. Shaquille Coulthurst got inbetween Dean Winnard and Adam Buxton in the area and the on loan Tottenham man went over with the ref awarding the spot kick, much to the dismay of the home fans.

Corr took the penalty and hit it straight down the middle – with Simpson happy to collect it.

A Windass volley midway through the second half, from a Piero Mingoia ball in, came close as Stanley looked for the breakthrough.

However there was heartbreak when sub Barnard was judged to have been fouled by Winnard and he dusted himself down to send Simpson the wrong way and leave the home team with nothing after their opening day encounter.