Five years time…

Southend United v FC Halifax Town – Vanarama National League – Roots Hall Stadium – Saturday (3pm) – Preview

Lazy journalism alert!

Well, perhaps more of a little look back in time. Either way, a quick ‘cut and paste’ job, which has handily provided more substance to this week’s preview and offered a timely reminder of where were just over a year ago.

Of course, it got worse before it started to get better. Some seem to believe very little has changed. Of the field, that might weel be somewhere close to the truth. On it, I simply can’t agree.

Anyway, first things first. Back to the future…

A mixed bag of results over Easter with performances which at times were fragile. 

A streetwise Wealdstone took the points at Roots Hall Stadium thanks to Rhys Browne’s terrific second-half strike. Southend were wasteful and ultimately woeful. Jason Demetriou’s spot-kick was rebuffed by Stones stopper, George Wickens, while Demetriou, Harry Cardwell and Harrison Neal passed up decent chances before Browne stole the points.

Having started brightly, Blues soon looked flat and out of ideas, lacking creativity, punch and where the goal was concerned, steel. Disappointing? Absolutely! Longterm damage? Very little to report. I remain confident that a percentage of these players will be replaced. No need for the amateur dramatics over a match that meant very little.

Barnet. Firstly, and despite the dead-rubber nature of the contest, it was still good to see Blues return to winning ways.

We started off like the proverbial express train, roaring into a two-goal lead inside a quarter of an hour thanks to Harry Cardwell’s spot-kick and Jason Demetriou’s close-range volley.

But at the end of the storm there wasn’t so much a golden sky, but more of a misty haze. Steve Arnold saved Mason-Clark’s penalty before Adam Marriott reduced the arrears just after the hour.

From then on, Blues looked uncomfortable against a poor Barnet side that had shipped seven goals at Dagenham & Redbridge on Good Friday.

James Dunne’s stoppage-time strike came as a welcome surprise. Welcome, because it sealed the points. Suprise, because I didn’t think he’d ever play for the club again after his sending off at Maidenhead United. 

Blues finished the Bank Holiday exactly where they started it. Thirteenth. Chances of a top-half finish are minimal, but again, from where we were in November, thirteenth in the National League equals three European Cups as far as I’m concerned.

At this point, I sense that some of the angry, twitchy-eye brigade are sharpening their knives. Not just for me, but for Kevin Maher and his staff too. Again, admittedly there aren’t many of them. Most Blues fans understand the process and recognise a basket case of a job when they see one. But those who can’t need to back off. 

Only this week, a fellow Blues fan reminded me of a preview I’d written ahead of Mark Molesley’s last victory (there weren’t many) at Harrogate Town just over a year ago.

The article highlights our desperation. I’d long-since accepted relegation and couldn’t for the life of me understand why Molesley was still in the hot seat? 

Buckle yourself in, it’s something of a bumpy ride;

When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions (Hamlet – Act IV, Scene V)…

Nine matches remaining, six points from safety – As far as I’m concerned, the ship has long since sailed. I believe this is a view now shared by the vast majority of disgruntled and disillusioned Southend United supporters. 

Damage report…

Southend United 0-0 Walsall

Match: 37 Won: Drawn: 11 Lost: 19 Points: 32 Position: 23rd Nils: 21 

As I might have mentioned, with family and friends connected to the Black Country outfit, it was interesting to receive comments from both sets of fans on the whistle – the general consensus – An abysmal excuse of a football match – let’s never talk about it again.

True, Southend offered slightly more offensively than in recent performances. But the quality remains minimal – the result, all rather too predictable and on this occasion against a side actually below them in the current form table and who provided little on no threat of their own.

Indeed, until the home side finally started to show a little urgency – ironically, just after being reduced to ten men – the match could have been played without a ball. The standard of football in League Two has been poor this season – This drab encounter did nothing to change that perspective.

Mark Molesley perhaps should be admired for defending his team post-match: “I can’t ask any more from my players; they’re giving everything out there,” he explained. 

“We’ve gone down to ten men and just attacked. As soon as we went down to ten men all we did was attack and put crosses in the box, but being a player down we’re not getting as many players in and around it and I felt there was only going to be one winner out there tonight.” 

But at the end of the day, eight of the starting eleven were recruited during Molelsley’s tenure at Roots Hall. To throw them under the bus now would evaporate any droplet of enthusiasm amongst the group and as good as admit that they are not good enough to compete competently in League Two. The table says one thing, but in the meantime, as you were, everyone.

While the football remains distinctly depressing, the tempestuous fallout from the Roots Hall faithful continues to gather pace via social media. At the time of scribing this article, neither Ron Martin nor the Supporters Trust has issued any further communication to that published ahead of Walsall’s visit. I don’t for one minute envisage there is too much in the way of positivity to report should that change in the meantime.

Anyway Jeevesie, you’re a football reporter – report! Sam Hart’s second-half dismissal provides Molesley with another conundrum – the player, who has been one of Southend’s better performers during this latest Annus horribilis (they seem to come around so quickly these days!).

In truth, my immediate thoughts were that the referee got it right. I’ve had a couple of looks since and see no reason to change that opinion. Hart will now miss three matches and although Molesley has suggested Southend will appeal the decision, I’d be rather surprised if the outcome was overturned.  

The blow has been potentially doubled with the news that Timothee Dieng has been charged by the FA of a clear act of simulation during the recent draw at Scunthorpe United.

Ironically, despite the incident resulting in Southend’s only goal in their last seven outings, Dieng’s actions have largely been condemned by the Blues support. Now it appears they will be without the player, possibly for the trip to Harrogate, although again the club has suggested an appeal – it never rains!

Ah yes, Harrogate Town – Up next. The League Two newsboys provided us all with a taster of what was to follow, marking their EFL debut with a resounding 4-0 victory at Roots Hall Stadium on the opening day of the campaign.

Although I wasn’t covering that particular match, I did catch The Sulphurites 3-0 defeat at Leyton Orient – hat-trick hero Danny Johnson the difference between the sides – Aaron Martin and Jack Muldoon offering me enough evidence that the Yorkshiremen were equipped to recover. Fourteen victories and six draws from their 36 matches to date is ample proof that this was the case, although a defeat to Morecambe last time out has all but ended their outside aspirations of a top-seven finish.

It is just over a month since Southend pulled off an impressive 3-1 victory at promotion-chasing Forest Green Rovers to climb off the bottom of the table, and indeed out of the relegation zone. Let’s just think about that for a moment – a month – How did you feel that night? How have you been feeling since? I don’t know about you, but it seems like an awful lot longer!

Stay strong, everyone. 

Jeevesie’s prediction: Harrogate Town 1-0 Southend United

Okay, my prediction was welcomingly inaccurate, but that was a pretty ugly read. On a footballing front, surely everyone can see we are moving in the right direction, even taking the recent run of defeats into account and flimsy displays?

Blues have five matches remaining this season. Four against sides higher up the table than us. I don’t think we are capable of making up the ground to finish in the top half, nor do I think we are in a position to take on and beat the weekend’s opponents, Halifax or for that matter, Wrexham, next week. 

But I do believe we will be within touching distance come next season. Again, I’m talking about the process. Blues were on life support and in some circles, still are. But there are positives and if the management are provided with the time and support it will escalate.

But in the meantime, we need to be patient for a little longer. Halifax head to Roots Hall Stadium firmly established amongst the play-off contenders and are unbeaten in five, picking up eleven points from the last fifteen on offer.

Maher is aware of the task in hand against a side that can secure a top-seven finish with a win: “Halifax are a good side and they’ve been up there for the majority of the season,” he explained.

“They’re in decent form and we know how tough it’s going to be.

“They’re a hard-working side and a good side too so it’s a tough game, we know that.

“But off the back of a win we’ll look to give a good account of ourselves and I’m sure we’ll have another good crowd in.”

A good account is a minimum requirement but a commodity we didn’t have just twelve months ago. Personally, I’m prepared to wait a little longer for success. In the meantime, honesty and a competitive edge will do just fine.”

Jeevesie’s prediction: Southend United 0-2 FC Halifax Town 

Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]