Ahead of Ourselves…

Southend United v Dagenham & Redbridge – Vanarama National League – Roots Hall Stadium – Saturday (5:30pm) – Preview

I’m sure like myself, most Southend United supporters had mixed feelings following Tuesday evening’s 1-1 Vanarama National League draw with a Wealdstone side we perhaps underestimated somewhat.

One minute, we are starring down the barrel of our first defeat in six matches following Sean Adarkwa’s early opener for the North Londoners. But with time running out, Henry Sandat pounced following good work from Jack Bridge to salvage a share of the spoils and extend our unbeaten sequence.

The match offered several different perspectives. Firstly, Wealdstone could have been out of sight had they been more clinical during an otherwise ragged opening period from the Blues.

However, and perhaps after returning with the proverbial flea in their ear, Southend offered a little more after the restart. Some will argue we deserved a point, others not so. But here we are, up a lace in the table, with a five-point buffer from the bottom four in what is an incredibly tight division.

Boss, Kevin Maher remained pragmatic: “It’s too often now that we’ve conceded goals early on,” he explained.

“It’s poor from our point of view. It’s almost in our honesty to go and win the ball straight away, but sometimes you’ve got to stay calm and keep the ball in front of you. We’ve left him free at the back post and it’s something we can’t keep doing.

“With the amount of headers we had in the six-yard box, you just want someone to head it with some conviction. Fair play to the players, they kept going because you can lose heart when you’re not scoring.”

But despite the euphoria of a late point-saver, it must be recognised that we are very much a work in progress. There will be ‘one step forward, two back’ moments while the new players – some largely untested previously at the level – find their feet. 

In some cases, that might not happen. The potential isn’t always fulfilled. That’s football. Even when the takeover is complete, there won’t be a bottomless pit of money to splash out on elaborate signings. I still think we lack experience in one or two areas, simply allowing us to compete for the play-offs next season. 

Of course, there is still plenty of the current campaign to consume ourselves with. But I think it remains important to see the situation as it is and be realistic. I doubt we will be drawn back into a relegation battle, and the play-offs – in my opinion – are too far over the horizon. Either way, it will be an interesting summer. Players will come and go. I don’t doubt that the new owners and management have their heart set on promotion. However, whether we are a club in a position to achieve it will become all the more apparent as time goes on.

In the meantime, Blues entertain Dagenham & Redbridge at Roots Hall on Saturday evening in a televised National League encounter.

With Colchester and Leyton Orient out of the picture, something of a rivalry has emerged with the Victoria Road outfit, who similarly to ourselves, have endured a mixed campaign.

With just a point separating the sides, the scene is set for what should be a well-contested encounter. The Daggers returned to winning ways against Altrincham last time out and will be keen to avenge a 2-0 defeat inflicted by the Blues on their home patch back in August. 

But for now, food for thought. The future might well be a lot brighter for Southend United Football Club – although, with history in mind, I still think it’s too early to tell. Nevertheless, it appears a whole lot better than it did this time last year. The club wasn’t quite ‘in the ashes’ but I think it is fair to say that our tail feathers are somewhat singed. It is important not to get too far ahead of ourselves as the rebuild, on and off the pitch continues, and the next chapter is drafted by those we now entrust with the task. 

Jeevesie’s prediction: Southend United 1-1 Dagenham & Redbridge

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Brian Jeeves

Email: sport@yellowad.co.uk