It’s a disaster! But look where we came from last season!
2 wins in 9! 2 defeats in 18!
It’s hard to know whether we’re simply in a fallow period that happens in most promotion campaigns or in the early stages of a full-on collapse. Taking one point from last week’s big games wasn’t good but it’s way too early in the season given the position we’re in to write off promotion. However you view this recent run of form though, we really need now to put together a run of wins to inject some forward momentum back into our campaign.
As far as performance levels are concerned, I don’t think that what we saw last week should concern us overly. Certainly our attacking play shouldn’t concern us, we could easily have scored two goals against both Walsall and Burton and we would be feeling a lot better about ourselves. Our defence, well that’s a different story but I think it should serve as a final reminder to Tony Mowbray that we’re not the kind of side who can play defensively for sustained periods.
Against Southend this weekend, we return to our previous quarrel of dealing with teams setting up to frustrate us (although Burton took a similar approach last week). We need a greater killer instinct in front of goal, being more desperate to take advantage of the spells in games where we’re on top rather than complacently assuming there’ll be more to come.
With John Fleck out of the side for this game and Gael Bigirimana coming in, I don’t think we can look to really control this game as much as we have previously tried to do in similar contests this season. Bigi can read the game well and can pick some excellent passes but also has a predilection to give the ball away in dangerous areas, playing the ball out slowly in front of our own defence is going to cause us more problems than Southend in this fixture.
With that mind, Joe Cole could be an important player in maintaining the control and composure of this side. His passing isn’t as brilliant as his reputation would suggest but he’s excellent at making himself available for passes and keeping the ball in tight areas which will should help keep things calm. Starting Cole will then give us that trifecta of James Maddison, Jacob Murphy and Adam Armstrong who destroyed Crewe in our most recent away game.
Tony Mowbray will have to continue to make best of a makeshift defence made up of either slow or naive players. Last week’s mistake might have been the absolutely very final straw for Aaron Phillips in the minds of many but there isn’t really an alternative at this stage other than restoring Chris Stokes to centre-back and playing Ryan Haynes at left-back who is arguably not as strong defensively as Phillips. When will that dominant centre-back finally arrive?
Last Time We Met
Our last meeting with Southend came in an interesting early phase of the season on a rainy Monday night at the Ricoh Arena. Southend were then winless at that point but harried our defence with admirable endeavour only for a Reda Johnson goal to look like killing off their resistance. However, Southend quickly replied with a headed goal from a corner routine and then took the lead from the penalty spot before half-time.
It looked like being one of those nights that Coventry City fans are accustomed to as the team huffed and puffed with little end product against a resilient away side enjoying their day at a big stadium. Southend then gave away a silly penalty which gave Jim O’Brien a chance to level the game from the spot, only for him to take a shockingly limp, easily-saveable penalty for a professional footballer to produce to maintain the ‘same old City’ narrative for the night. Not soon after that though, captain Sam Ricketts headed in a near-post corner to salvage a point that didn’t look like it was coming.
How Are They Doing?
Having surprised many by sitting just outside the play-offs at the half-way point in the season, Southend have endured a worrying run of results of late. A 4-0 defeat to Millwall was followed up by a 3-0 defeat to Doncaster, they then thought the run was over after taking a 2-0 lead away to Swindon before losing 4-2 which led to manager Phil Brown locking the team in the dressing room for two hours. Southend look to be in the midst of one of those characteristic Football League second half of the season collapses, although a respectable 0-0 draw last week against Peterborough will give them confidence that perhaps the worst is already over.
The key player for this Southend side is Daniel Bentley in goal who looks to be a future Premier League player in the making. Not only does he has the raw technical qualities in terms of shot-stopping and commanding his area but he has an extra edge of charisma that really seems to set him apart from your ordinary League One goalkeeper. He’s just one of those keepers that can ensure a clean sheet regardless of how the two teams on the pitch are performing.
Aside from that, Southend are a fairly ordinary, workmanlike side full of triers who like to put in a good shift. An attacking duo of David Mooney and Noel Hunt have a strong calibre at this level of football but it’s really their workrate rather than their goalscoring on which they’ve built their respective careers on. Similar to Burton last week, Southend are going to be muscular in the centre of the pitch and press high up the pitch with their energetic frontmen looking to disrupt our passing game.
Despite Southend’s fairly poor recent run of form, they are set up to cause us a few problems which makes this a tricker fixture than it looks on paper. If we can impose our game on them, we should be able to take advantage of their brittle confidence but if we show any sign of weakness early on, perhaps giving the ball away sloppily in front of our own goal, it’s only going to encourage them to keep on hassling us high up the pitch.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this game, I’m used to seeing this side rally impressively whenever there have been questions asked of them but I also think that this is a very difficult away game and that this team struggles to win games when the conditions aren’t quite right for us. Southend having such a good keeper probably swings my opinion of this fixture and I’m going to predict a 1-1 draw.