Grit and determination is the minimum requirement

FC Halifax Town v Southend United – Vanarama National League – The Shay – Saturday (3pm) – Preview

A football match! A real football match!

Yes, it was only a solitary point and a two-goal advantage was frustratingly surrendered, but wow, for the first time in what seemed like an eternity it felt as if we had witnessed a proper football experience at Roots Hall Stadium.

The audience of more than 6,000 was considerably bolstered by Wrexham’s 581-strong contingent (I must say, I thought it looked like a few more?). Both sets of supporters provided a decent atmosphere. We were treated to a competitive contest and above all, a Southend United side that displayed a bit of heart and passion.

Personally, I thought Wrexham played the crisper football and looked a threat every time they attacked down the right flank – Blues opting for a more direct approach which I believe suits our personnel. Of course, it was frustrating to see the Welshmen claw their way back when it appeared that we were about to record a notable victory. But where the downright dirty jobs are concerned, Southend were terrific.

At any level, when you face an expansive side, with plenty of flair and threat, you simply have to match them for raw effort. Blues provided that. Phil Brown had demanded it during the run-up to the game and the crowd quickly bought into it.

Before you think I’m going soft in my old age, no I don’t think we have all of a sudden turned into promotion contenders – far from it. But with the best part of five decades of experience as a Southend supporter behind me, I know our place. Along with the rest of you – whatever club you support – I know when a footballer is giving his lot and I’m painfully aware when they are not. For than simple commodity, Blues set the bar last Saturday. Sure, performances and form will fluctuate, but those standards must be matched every time they cross the white line.

For me, goalkeeper Steve Arnold again excelled. His save from Dior Angus shortly after the restart highlighted what we have been missing in that particular department over the past four years. Defensively, Blues largely stood firm in the face of a talented attack. We need to win a few more of the midfield battles, and although Rhys Murphy got off the mark, he continues to pass up a series of decent opportunities every week. Hopefully, the goal will serve as a confidence booster and we’ll see him replicate his Yeovil form from the past couple of campaigns.

Superb – Southend United goalkeeper, Steve Arnold (Kieran Galvin ActionFotoSport)

Anyway, that’s taken care of football for a paragraph or two. What next? Ah, yes, the latest in the series of Celebrity Squares. 

Ron Martin provided some optimistic topics on Fossetts Farm and even offered one or two timescales, particularly surrounding the adjacent training ground, although personally, I believe anytime soon is as sanguine as it has ever been.

The truth of it is, only Ron really knows how near or far Southend United Football Club are from potentially getting the keys. Ultimately, more and more supporters view talk as cheap. Action speaks louder than words. Some would be happy just to see diggers on-site, while others won’t believe it until Kevin Maher’s testimonial kicks off (remember him?). The majority remain sceptical – the ‘not in my lifetime’ brigade. Cause for off-field optimism? I’m not so sure!

Back to football. FC Halifax Town provides the opposition on Saturday. Another club that has been through the proverbial mill, evolving from the ashes left when Halifax Town went to the wall, buried by huge tax debts in May 2008.

The Yorkshiremen occupied a midtable position at the conclusion of the last campaign – a play-off place is a minimum requirement this time around. Despite slipping to defeat at Yeovil last week, Halifax boss, Pete Wild believe his charges had produced the better football. They will certainly be keen to mark the occasion when Southend visit – The match recording a century of football at the clubs’ Shay ground. I’m sure one or two old Blues followers recall standing on the ash banks surrounding the stadium before it was renovated in the mid-90s.

Back to the present, Halifax has won two and lost two of their opening four National League matches. Blues boss, Phil Brown is relishing the challenge against a club he spent three years with as a player between 1985/88, although I’d wager accepts that he, like his former employers, doesn’t have the resources at his disposal to that of Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County. 

Nevertheless, during a recent interview with the Halifax Courier, Brown largely echoed my own sentiments scribed at the top of this article, following last weekends endeavours: “As far as I’m concerned, as soon as any team crosses the white line, forget about budgets, forget about board rooms, forget about money, it’s about you against them,” he explained 

“You win that battle you’ve got every chance of winning a game of football, it’s as simple as that in the National League.” – Yep, Wrexham was acceptable – More of the same please, Blues!

Jeevesie’s prediction: FC Halifax Town 1-1 Southend United 

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Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]