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Forest Green Rovers v Southend United – Sky Bet League Two – The New Lawn – Wednesday 6pm – Preview
Southend United 0-1 Bolton Wanderers – Match 29 – Defeat 17 – League position 22nd – Let’s assess the damage…
• An unimaginative performance with little or no creativity.
• Only one shot on target (I was at the game, but in truth, can’t remember it).
• The gap between Blues and Stevenage is now nine points.
• Oh, yes… A huge goalkeeping error!
It’s quite incredible that a side that creates so few chances have picked up four points from the last nine on offer, especially when you consider Southend have mustered just four shots on target during those 270 minutes.
A positive for me was the performance of Tom Clifford and John White, suggesting defensively, Blues are on the right track. I thought Clifford was Southend’s brightest player against Bolton and didn’t understand his late substitution, while White is exactly the sort of warrior required in the battlefield. Listen, if you’ve played for both Southend and Colchester and command the respect of both sets of fans, you’ve done something right. Another honest performance from an honest player.
Matt Gilks became the latest opposing goalkeeper to finish the match with a clean pair of gloves. Southend managed to sling several tantalising crosses his way, but with nobody prepared to take a chance and get across their man, Blues chances breaching the visitors was, at best, minimal. Southend hung on for dear life in the opening period and although they improved slightly after the restart, make no mistake the better side won.
Southend’s hopes of survival now largely rest with a man who is not yet match-fit, has a questionable aptitude and hasn’t kicked a ball in the professional game for more than two years. No pressure, Nile!
The blow from Southend’s defeat was slightly softened by Barrow’s defeat. However, Stevenage edged a point further clear. How costly that late howler from Mark Oxley could prove to be, come the end of the campaign?
Now I know Oxley isn’t the only Southend player who has come under scrutiny this season, although a custodian of his standing and with considerable experience shouldn’t be making errors such as the one which presented Shaun Miller with Bolton’s late winner.
Oxley has come in for considerable criticism from the Blues support since he arrived in July 2016. Perhaps Mark Molesley, understandably, should be admired for refusing to throw his beleaguered stopper under the bus in his post-match interview. Although I do believe suggesting it was a fluke goal, caused by a freak gust of wind and that Oxley and the Blues players thought the ball was out, only made the situation worse.
Agitated Southend fans responded angrily on social media and had every reason to. Firstly, whether you think the ball is out or not, play to the whistle (I remember my dad shouting that at me when I was playing under 14’s football for Rochford Sports). Oxley clearly wasn’t fully extended. If he had been, he could have played safe – the first rule of goalkeeping – and pushed the ball over the bar.
On top of that and as painful as it was, the whole situation might have been a little more palatable if either Molesley or Oxley held up a hand and took some responsibility. ‘He’s gutted in there and inconsolable’ might have received a more sympathetic response than a short string of excuses. He’s sorry – It was a mistake – Lessons learned – We move on.
The fans response to the signing of Ranger and Ricky Holmes has been interesting and quite positive. Of course, five years ago, both would have been stunning signings for Southend, but now they arrive in questionable condition – physically and mentally – and with a big job on their hands. Although hopefully, that old footballing adage ‘class is permanent proves to be the case. Indeed, Holmes displayed one or two neat touches when introduced against the Trotters, suggesting the 33-year-old has still got it and has something to offer.
Meanwhile, we are yet to see Jacob Mellis and James Olayinka’s return can’t come quick enough. The quartet could provide Southend with just enough to squeeze over the line If they can collectively rediscover vigour and form.
It’s a huge gamble, quite literally a game of pitch-and-toss. My concern is that there is now a collective ready-made excuse for the hierarchy should Blues be relegated. Supporters will remember that Southend United’s position was critical long before they arrived. It would be unfair to feed them to the lions should the punt fail, especially after the club gave the rest of the league a fifteen game start. By the way, on the subject of recent acquisitions – Louis Walsh? Any clues? Asking for a friend…
Southend United head to Forest Green Rovers on Wednesday evening. A club challenging for automatic promotion and who seem to make the day to day running of a football club look remarkably straight forward under the guidance of Dale Vince.
Goals from Josh Davison and Jamille Matt was enough to secure a 2-0 victory at Newport County at the weekend, moving them within a point of leaders Cambridge United and extending their unbeaten sequence to five matches.
To be honest, I don’t see Southend taking anything from this one. With Molesley suggesting Ranger is still a week away, the lack of a goal threat remains, while the ask on an already overworked backline is still substantial. I’d imagine it will be another couple of matchdays spent with as much focus on Tuesday matches involving Grimsby, Barrow, Stevenage and Colchester as it will events at the New Lawn 24 hours later.
Jeevesie’s prediction: Forest Green Rovers 1-0 Southend United