Nothing burns like the cold…

Southend United v Maidenhead United – Vanarama National League – Roots Hall Stadium – Tuesday (7:45pm) – Preview

I believe Oscar Wilde once said: “Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” 

Nevertheless, I’d imagine if you were amongst the 256 Southend United supporters that headed to the North-West ten days ago, you won’t forget the icy conditions in a hurry and are only just beginning to thaw out!

Even from our vantage point in the relative comfort of the Moss Lane press box, that has to be the coldest I’ve ever been at a football match. However, against an established Altrincham side, Southend produced a superb opening half performance during which Rhys Murphy (really, Rhys?) and Sam Dalby plundered a couple of goals.

Tongue in cheek, I took to social media, posting; One day, we’ll look back and say; Remember that 34 minutes at Altrincham, when Southend United thought they were Brazil? But in truth, Blues were solid, workmanlike, and with Zak Brunt pulling the strings, they offered a peppering of flair to boot. 

Of course, it was too much to ask for more of the same after the restart. Goalkeeper, Steve Arnold preserved Southend’s lead with a superb penalty save from Ryan Colclough. And even after Alty substitute, Dan Mooney had reduced the arrears, Arnold took command during an otherwise nervy final twenty-two and a bit minutes to ensure three hugely unexpected, but welcome and vital points.

Several of the group can lay claim to having produced their best performance in a Southend shirt. For me, Arnold pipped Brunt for our Man of the Match. However, the Sheffield United whippersnapper epitomises honesty, the one true commodity that Southend United supporters are fully entitled to demand from the players, particularly after throwing good money after bad in recent years to watch otherwise substandard football.

Southend United goalkeeper, Steve Arnold (Kieran Galvin ActionFotoSport)

But let’s stick to the positives for a moment. An upturn in performance and a result to match. And then a further boost seven days later when the Blues moved out of the relegation zone without kicking a ball after Maidenhead United were beaten 3-0 at Barnet. As if it was all this easy all of the time!

Of course, boss, Kevin Maher has had ten days since Altrincham to work with the players, both mentally and physically. Implementing further his ideas at the same time as attempting to dispel the popular opinion around the game that he has taken on the proverbial basket case of a job.

Although at the time of scribing these notes, Maher is looking to extend the loan of Brunt and his Sheffield United teammate, Kacper Lopata, Southend are yet to recruit further. Whether it be down to the right footballer not yet becoming available, or more sinisterly, the better targets are still wary of the clubs’ reputation, only Maher and co know? In the meantime, highly rated left-back Charlie Sayers looks set to be heading for the dizzy heights of Tottenham Hotspur (presumably, the fee will be reinvested in strengthening the squad?), while the current group have an opportunity to step further away from the dropzone when Maidenhead come to Roots Hall for a rearranged National League fixture.

COVID concerns amongst the visitors’ ranks caused a postponement on the original date. The clash remains vitally important to both sides, currently separated by goal difference. Three points for Southend would elevate them three places up the table. It’s certainly a match neither can afford to lose as we head towards the busy Christmas programme.

But Southend needs to make this game all about them. Play on the front foot and without fear, just as we did during that opening half an hour at Altrincham. This is undoubtedly a winnable game and one Southend should be targeting. 

It seems that something similar to the bitterly cold conditions endured at Altrincham could put pay to any sort of expansive football with Storm Barra bringing heavy rain and gales to most of the country. Blues will need to dig deep and batten down the hatches.

As the title suggests, nothing burns like the cold. But three priceless points and a daring opportunity to look up the table will warm the cockles and on this occasion, I expect this to be the outcome. To lift another of Oscar’s quotes: “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.”

Jeevesie’s prediction: Southend United 2-1 Maidenhead United 

Brian Jeeves

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