Cambridge examination a step up for Blues

Southend United v Cambridge United – Sky Bet League Two – Roots Hall Stadium – Tuesday 7pm – Preview

Well, unfortunately, I was right, it was ugly. A goalless draw at Grimsby in awful conditions. Not one to live long in the memory.

But for those of you who like a statement with bullet points, here are the positives;

•Another point gained
•Another clean sheet

…And the negatives;

•Missed opportunities
•Probably two points dropped
•Southend are still bottom of the Football League

Yep, Blundell Park continued to be that ‘barrel of laughs’ venue that has seen Southend record just one victory upon in just over a century.

Mark Molesley went with intent – four attack-minded players in the starting line-up. But ultimately, the cutting edge was missing, chances were passed up and an opportunity missed.

Of course, Southend remains in touch with the others and with Barrow seeing of Scunthorpe United, the Iron have now very much re-joined the disconsolate party at the last-chance saloon.

So what now? Well, obviously, those elusive two points (and of course those meekly surrendered during the opening 15 games of the season) will have to be captured elsewhere. But in a league where probably everyone down to seventeenth placed Bolton is a winning run from the play-offs and everyone from Walsall in eleventh several banana-skins away from ‘squeaky bum time’ that’s not going to be easy by any stretch.

Cambridge United come to Roots Hall Stadium on Tuesday night. A team currently occupying one of the automatic promotion berths, but who have, at times, epitomised the inconsistent nature of League Two.

Resounding 5-0 victories on the road at both Morecambe and Scunthorpe have been counterbalanced by losses to lowly Stevenage, Bradford and Oldham. As with the Blues, the damage can only be properly assessed at the end of the campaign – when the picture is considerably clearer. But in the meantime, if you asked any Southend fan if they’d be happy to swap league places with the U’s, anyone answering anything other than ‘absolutely yes!’ should surely be called in for a serious head wobble.

No doubt – Cambridge 38 points from 23 games – will start favourites, but that doesn’t mean the pressure is off Southend. In fact, quite the opposite. Having compiled a pretty decent run, producing play-off form over the past month or so, the very fact that the Blues are still 92nd must be a little soul-destroying for both the players and the management. Focus, mindset and fight must remain at the fore.

I’ve been critical of Molesley at times – but ultimately fair. After ten games, he had the worst record of any manager in the Blues near-115-year history. I questioned his appointment, his contacts within the game, the quality of footballer he was recruiting. But holes have been plugged and the ship remains afloat. If the 39-year-old restores Southend’s league status from here, he’s got every right to ask where the club will be putting his statue, whether that be Roots Hall Fossett’s Farm or Timbuktu?

I wasn’t at Blundell Park on Saturday, my office for the day closer to home at the London Stadium. But en-route to cover West Ham’s narrow victory over Burnley I was delighted to hear BBC Radio 5 live deservedly singing Molesley’s praises and suggesting he is far more than just a firefighter.

But that got me thinking. If I’ve noticed, you’ve all noticed and they’ve noticed who else is taking an interest in a man building a decent reputation in what has, in recent times, been identified as one of football least desirable managerial posts?

More to the point, what could he achieve at a club with solid foundations, financial backing and a considerably better squad? Undoubtedly, Molesley is being watched and assessed from elsewhere. That’s only natural in football.

But in the meantime, his task is simple – finish the season no lower than 22nd in Sky Bet League Two – an assignment
which many of us thought, and indeed perhaps in some cases still think, is impossible?

Back to Tuesday night. Cambridge United. Blues are highly likely to see less of the ball and probably ask fewer questions in front of goal. Their recently discovered resolve will be put to the test.

My gut feeling, I think Cambridge probably have too much for the Blues at the moment. I’ll get stick from sections of the fans for that, I accept it – It’s part of the course. It’s the honest opinion of a writer with the evidence placed in front of him.

But I’m happy to be proved wrong, and having won more matches in just over a month than in their previous 40-something, Molesley and his charges have already demonstrated that they can be a capable and effective unit.

Jeevesie’s prediction: Southend United 0-1 Cambridge United

Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]