After one of the least convincing wins possible over a team in the division below us on Wednesday night, we head into this upcoming league match against Southend not quite in a full nosedive towards oblivion but at a 179-degree angle.
There’s probably not much that can be seriously read into from Wednesday night’s win over Crawley. Mark Venus named a random assortment of players into a rough 4-4-2 shape and we, as a crappy League One team, beat Crawley, a crappy League Two team. If this is the start of another good run of form, it certainly was an inauspicious one.
Marvin Sordell, Jack McBean, Jodi Jones and George Thomas played as a front four against Wednesday and there’s maybe some promise there. Thomas is a very hardworking player who we could probably do with right now, McBean tends to do a decent job bringing others into play, Sordell’s our one proper ‘number 9’ and Jodi Jones is potentially someone who can create something out of nothing. However, a lack of experience and physicality in the front-line will probably see someone like Kyel Reid or Marcus Tudgay come into the team for this game.
Elsewhere, the return of Chris McCann to fitness on Wednesday night is a huge boost for a side lacking presence and experience. There is a conundrum of how you play him in the same midfield as Andy Rose, but with Jamie Sterry currently injured and the alternative at right-back being the energetic but short and defensively-suspect Dion Kelly-Evans, it might be worth sticking with Rose at right-back for his height against a physical Southend side. However, Ben Stevenson’s suspension may make the need for Rose greater in midfield.
Reice Charles-Cook played in goal against Crawley on Wednesday, as he did in the previous EFL Trophy game under Mark Venus. My own opinion is Charles-Cook is the better all-round goalkeeper than Lee Burge, but it seems like the latter is Venus’ number one and I would expect Burge to return in goal for this game.
Last Time We Met
We headed into our last meeting with Southend fresh off the back of a 2-0 loss to Burton, but still hopeful we could overcome a slight speed-bump along our path to promotion. Speed-bump it was not, Southend completely outplayed us at Roots Hall, taking a 2-0 lead before half-time and then mocking us even further by spending much of the rest of the second-half with ten-men but still managing to be the better side and going on to score a third goal. Also, Stephen Hunt played in this game.
How Are They Doing?
When Southend lost their two star players from last season – Jack Payne and Daniel Bentley – in the summer and manager Phil Brown desperately tried to jump ship to Bolton, it looked like the Shrimpers were set for a season of struggle. However, Brown failed to land the job at Bolton and has done an effective job at rebuilding the squad to probably make them a better team this time around.
Brown’s best summer signings were Simon Cox and Nile Ranger in attack, both players presenting different kinds of risks. Cox was on a downwards career trajectory and hadn’t really had a decent season in six or seven years, but had a high enough reputation still to demand a significant salary. Ranger’s off-the-field problems are well-documented and probably obscure the fact that he’s a very good striker at League One level, having proven it with Swindon a few years ago. Neither have been particularly prolific this season but Ranger has been an excellent focal point in attack, while Cox has provided energy and creativity.
Stephen McLaughlin is Southend’s current top-scorer, although he plays as a winger. McLaughlin is an inconsistent performer but has scored some absolute screamers this season and can be a great player on his day. Anthony Wordsworth has also been a strong contributor of goals this season from midfield, he offers drive and excellent set-piece delivery. Finally, Will Atkinson is of a similar ilk to McLaughlin in that he can be anonymous at times but then all-of-a-sudden pop up with a goal or an assist.
Southend probably possess the best full-back pairing in the division in the form of Jason Demetriou and Ben Coker. Both are very attacking full-backs with great delivery, Demetriou also has a great long-range shot on him and should really have gotten a move to a bigger club than Southend after his exploits for Walsall last season.
With Phil Brown in charge, Southend are a difficult team to predict just who they’re going to play and in what formation with their manager preferring to chop and change depending on the opposition. Just like last season though, Southend are going to be a very physical, tenacious and hard-working team and thus well set-up to punish us if we’re not up for the challenge.
Southend are in great form, we are not. Southend have experience and physicality in their side, we do not. Throw our awful away form into the mix and it’s a no-contest really. Southend to win 3-0.