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Southend United v Bolton Wanderers – Sky Bet League Two – Roots Hall Stadium – Saturday 3pm – Preview
Well, this is a novelty. A hugely positive week on the pitch for Southend United – Fantastic!
So let’s break it down, starting with the positives;
• Four points from a possible six away from home against two teams challenging for promotion.
• Back-to-back clean sheets
• Out of the relegation zone for the first time since October
• Blues never really looked like losing against either Newport or Cambridge
• Emile Acquah probably had his best game in a Southend shirt at Cambridge
• The weather is warming up
And the negatives;
• No shots on target and not much of a threat at the Abbey Stadium
• Mark Molesley once again bemoaning a penalty decision
• Barrow still has two games in hand
• Barrow aside, midweeks results weren’t particularly kind
…Actually, not too many negatives, but let’s delve a bit deeper.
Southend’s lack of a potent goalscorer continues to worry me. I was at the Abbey Stadium. Make no mistake, Southend were the better team against a well organised Cambridge side who I fully expect to be promoted, come the end of the season.
But the proof is in the pudding. Thirteen shots, none testing the Cambridge goalkeeper. The fact remains that Southend has to win football matches if they are to avoid relegation. Either someone must step up to the plate or an out of contract gem needs to be mined from the footballing dole queue before it’s too late.
Nile Ranger’s name has again been bandied about this week. Above all, I fear the 29-year-old’s lack of match practice doesn’t bode well what with Southend urgently requiring a player ready to hit the ground running. A potential return doesn’t sit well with me, but then again I’m not making the decisions and beggars can’t be choosers.
For the umpteenth time, Molesley has spoken post-match about potential penalties Blues have been denied. Now I’m sure I’ll upset a few people here. Sorry, once again I’m only offering an honest opinion.
Are we to believe that the world is against Southend United? Does every other referee have an issue with the Blues? I very much doubt that. I’ve actually found Molesley’s penalty gripes a little uncomfortable. Sure, now and then you get a questionable one. Even with VAR available in the Premier League, referees have come under the microscope. But in reality, the officials get the decisions right most of the time.
For me, questioning an official often sits hand in hand with a pressurised manager who isn’t getting enough results. If Southend United had a stronger squad and were winning more matches than they are losing, would Molesley be putting the officials under such scrutiny so often? I’ll leave that open to debate.
What’s next? Ah yes, Barrow – two games in hand. At the end of the day, I’d always take points on the board over games in hand. They lost at Salford on Tuesday evening – the pressure is on Barrow to win, just as it is every other side in the bottom six.
The problem from a Southend perspective is that the sides immediately above us keep picking up enough points to remain at arm’s length. Even Colchester – on a horrendous run of twelve without a win – have drawn six, keeping the wolf from the door for the time being.
Southend’s next run of fixtures sees them face Bolton, Forest Green, Salford and Cheltenham. Challenging matches at the best of times let alone at a stage of the season when Blues can’t afford to let others distance themselves further. The last two performances and results have been hugely encouraging, but Southend remains on a tightrope with very little in the way of a safety net.
Immediately ahead is a visit from Bolton Wanderers. A big club, in the process of recovery following a period of severe turmoil both on and off the pitch.
Although the play-offs aren’t beyond Bolton, I’d imagine a season of steady progress and consolidation will be viewed as a huge step in the right direction (sounds like bliss, doesn’t it!). In Marcus Maddison, they have a creative potential match-winner and also a player keen to get his career back on track following several false dawns.
Once again, it is easy to draw potential similarities to events past, present and perhaps in the future and we must remember, this article started with a list of positives, outweighing the negatives. But in the meantime, let’s dip our collective toes back into the waters of reason and dabble with reality (I know – do we have to?). I’d imagine Southend United require the equivalent of another eight victories to stand a chance of preserving their membership of the EFL – Anyone feeling lucky?
Jeevesie’s prediction: Southend United 0-0 Bolton Wanderers