Blues mustn’t blow it against battling Barrow

Southend United v Barrow – Sky Bet League Two – Roots Hall Stadium – Saturday 3pm – Preview

If nothing changes, everything stays the same…

Well, almost. While inclement weather conditions left Southend United kicking their heels in South Wales, relegation rivals, Stevenage and Barrow put important points on the board as they stepped up their effort to scramble clear of the trap door.

Of course, games in hand against Cambridge United and now Newport County offer the Blues an opportunity to close the gap, but in the meantime, points on the board is a surefire winner over speculation and prediction every day of the week and that’s a luxury Mark Molesley’s side simply don’t have.

Blues remain at the bottom of Sky Bet League Two – the gap between themselves and the safety zone remaining four points. Southend now has a further six matches in January – four at home – while five of their opponents occupy positions in the bottom half of the table. It’s a chance – as is every time the players cross the white line. But without some serious additions to the squad, avoiding the drop remains highly questionable?

Immediately in front of them is a massive clash with newly-promoted Barrow – The Cumbrians initially struggled to adapt to their new surroundings. However, a change of management, coupled with seven points from a possible nine has lifted morale. They will undoubtedly head to south-east Essex confident of putting further daylight between themselves and the bottom two. It took the Bluebirds 50 years to regain their EFL status. A sobering thought for any club facing the drop into non-league football.

It’s a game neither side can afford to lose. But from a Southend perspective, a second successive setback following an otherwise stable December would be disastrous, and would likely leave them further cut adrift, especially if other results go against them as well.

I mentioned in my last preview that the loss at Leyton Orient was a reality check to the Blues. I added that they’d remain in trouble, even had they picked up the three points at the Breyer Group Stadium. That remains absolutely the case – Beating Barrow doesn’t lift Southend off the bottom of the table, it simply keeps them in touch – their League Two status on life-support.

Speaking ahead of the aborted mission to Newport, boss Molesley explained “It’s always about what is next, the next day, the next game; there’s always something to take your attention. I’m not one who lives in the past.” Unquestionably, this has to be the attitude from top to bottom at Roots Hall – anything less and the subsiding ship has already sunk.”

Blues have 26 games remaining. Looking back at the minimum requirement in recent seasons (except for COVID-curtailed 2019/20), they probably need the equivalent of ten wins, starting right now, to avoid relegation. In my opinion, a tall order for this current group, even with a clean bill of health and everyone on their game.

The managers’ enthusiasm remains a priceless commodity. But it must be backed up by those scouting and making new further additions possible. There is no longer a margin of error – This really is the last chance saloon.

Supporters are well within their rights to ask why the football club finds itself in this position, and indeed, who is responsible? After all, they pay their money, they care and surely, in business (and we have constantly been reminded these days that football is a business) the customer is always right?

But ultimately, ‘how’ is currently a bigger question? How are Southend United going to find further thirty points in a division where every club fighting for their lives one way or another and are still within three or four results of either the top seven or the bottom two?

Time, and indeed football, move on at an alarming rate. Southend United v Barrow is a cup final – a must-win – a six-pointer – a relegation dog-fight. But call it whatever you will, in this current climate It is the Blues biggest game of the season… Until the next one!

Jeevesie’s prediction: Southend United 1-1 Barrow

Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]