Grimsby Town v Southend United – Sky Bet League Two – Blundell Park – Saturday 3pm – Preview
It’s been almost sixteen years since Southend United last visited Blundell Park.
May 7, 2005; Southend United had wobbled in the run-in and needed a last day of the season victory to ensure promotion from League Two. Pride was at stake for Grimsby. Their professionalism under the spotlight from those elsewhere, casting an inquisitive eye and wondering whether the Mariners would simply sit back and roll over?
As it transpired, they didn’t and from a Southend perspective, they – for the time being – didn’t either! With Swansea City winning at Bury, Freddie Eastwood’s 70th-minute equaliser was insufficient to send the Blues up. 2,500 travelling fans trudged away disappointed, although that anguish would turn to ecstasy in Cardiff a couple of weeks later – the club appeared to be on the crest of a wave.
Fast forward 5,734 days. The excitement and euphoria, of which Southend’s current fanbase was largely constructed, has very much passed. An opportunity to establish themselves higher up missed. Point the finger which way you will, but ultimately mistakes have been made. Blues now head to Cleethorpes with far bigger potential consequences – very much of their own making. It’s another must-win match, although this time Grimsby is in the same boat.
I must say, I’ve been cautiously optimistic about the Blues chances of late. The football has been far from pretty, but believe me, that – in this situation – is a good thing. It makes me nauseous hearing a string of modern-day managers harping on about how much of the ball and how many passes their side has cobbled together. My message to them and the new wave of fans who think playing pretty patterns wins football matches – very often it doesn’t! The likes of Jose Mourinho have proved that possession isn’t nine-tenths of the law. For those enthusiasts who think football is a television show, the only statistic that matters is that one in the top left-hand corner of your screen – the scoreline!
For those still sceptical, take a look back to the Blues clash with Barrow at Roots Hall last week. The visitors were the more fluent side. They enjoyed far more of the ball, had more shots – ok, not on target, and even held a man advantage for the best part of 40-minutes – they lost 1-0 – a point proved!
Still doubting? Colchester, Grimsby and Scunthorpe – all beaten at Roots Hall of late – claimed a significant possession advantage. It didn’t do any of them any good!
Mark Molesley has had to work on his feet – find, both individually and collectively what his group can do. The answer – they can fight!
Having shipped 29 goals in their opening 16 games. Just four have been conceded in the five games since. Blues have learned to do the dirty jobs. The proverbial bite, scratch, kick, punch and scrap traits – important commodities in any team simply wanting to win a football match.
Of course, the Blues do possess flair, albeit in some cases borrowed. Loanees Reeco Hackett-Fairchild and James Olayinka are still learning their trade in the games ‘boiler-room’ – although at 22 and 20-years-of age respectively, the process perhaps needs to be quicker.
Sam Hart provides silk and steel at this level and appears to be genuinely pleased to be at Southend. Another rare quality at a time where loyalty in football – both ways it must be added – come at a premium.
Anyway, I’m waffling. Grimsby. It’s probably going to be an ugly one! Southend will be pitching their recently acquired skillset against a side which will offer very much the same. The price of defeat is a high one – the gamble a bigger risk than usual – the potential reward still very much in its infancy.
That game 15 years, 8 months and 10 days ago is now a very distant memory. The one standing directly ahead a county mile more important.
Jeevesie’s prediction: Grimsby Town 1-1 Southend United