Inspiring Blues babes display spirit and flair

Southend United 3-1 Bristol Rovers

SOUTHEND UNITED’S youthful squad briefly lifted some of the gloom hanging over the club by ending their recent winless Sky Bet League One sequence with an impressive 3-1 victory over Bristol Rovers at Roots Hall Stadium.

Throughout Southend’s most recent troubles, it has been impossible to heap too much criticism on a young squad, quite literally thrown into the lion’s den.

Nevertheless, the character displayed by Sol Campbell’s men has been a heartwarming feature during desperate times and Saturday’s success – well deserved and ending a run of six straight defeats – offers a glimmer of hope to the Blues long-suffering supporters.

Charlie Kelman – who will undoubtedly go on to grace a far higher level – opened the scoring midway through the opening period – the 18-year-old seizing on a mistake from Rovers defender Josh Hare before dispatching beyond stopper, Jamal Blackman.

And although the visitors would level immediately after the interval when another defensive error – this time from Southend’s Elvis Bwomono – was punished by Jayden Mitchell-Lawson, Blues were back in front shortly before the hour when another 18-year-old, Terrell Egbri, scored his first senior goal for the club after Eren Kinali had fashioned an opportunity.

Southend were in the ascendancy and it was now the turn of one of the Roots Hall old guard – Stephen McLaughlin – to seal the victory when his angled effort deflected wickedly off Alfie Kilgour, wrong-footing Blackman in the process.

Make no mistake, this wasn’t luck. Southend dominated the game throughout, much to the delight of boss, Campbell: “It’s a pat on the back for the lads,” he told www.southendunited.co.uk.

“For them to put that to the side and play football, that’s testament to them. There’s some good mentality in here and that’s come through. They showed great character, put everything to the side, played some football and got a great result.

The former England defender added: “As I’ve said before, I can only deal with football. That’s all I want to deal with, I don’t want to deal with anything else. Yes, I understand the situation above me is not perfect, but I’m trying with my team to make the football-related things steady and solid.
“I’m trying to create a framework that players can play from and go back to when they need to be slightly protected or want to attack. That’s all I can deal with and I don’t want to deal with anything above me, because I can’t control what’s above me, but what I’m trying to do is create a framework where the players can win, give it a go and be competitive.”

Southend United return to Sky Bet League One action on Saturday, March 14 when they take on high-flying Rotherham United at the New York Stadium (3pm).

Southend United: Gunnarsson, Bwomono, McLaughlin, Gard (Rush 90+2’), Shaughnessy, Kelman, Demetriou (Capt), Clifford, Egbri, Kinali, Mitchell-Nelson Subs not used: Seaden, Goodship, Barratt, Kyprianou, Hutchinson, Howard

Bristol Rovers: Blackman, Craig, Upson (Bennett 65’), Sercombe, Clarke (Capt), Leahy, Kilgour, Daly (Abraham 74’), Hare (Rodman 66’), Harries, Mitchell-Lawson Subs not used: Van Stappershoef, Holmes-Dennis, Menayese, Hargreaves

Referee: James Oldham
Assistants: Adrian Tranter and Stephen Brown
Fourth Official: John Flynn

Attendance: 5,806 (537 from Bristol Rovers)

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Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]