Newport County v Southend United – Sky Bet League Two – Rodney Parade – Tuesday 7pm – Preview
So a deluge of inclement weather throughout last week (we were lucky enough to miss it here in Shoeburyness) caused the postponement of Southend United’s Sky Bet League Two clash with Walsall.
But with Blues out of action, attention anxiously turned to their relegation rivals. A point for Stevenage, coupled with defeats for both Barrow and Grimsby ensured that nobody wriggled too far clear, but while Southend remained inactive, what else has changed? Actually, it would appear very little!
Of course, the plus is that while there is life, there is hope. Only three points separate bottom paced Blues from Barrow, sitting one above the dropzone. But with those further up just out of reach, concerns of a three-horse race to oblivion leaves me, and indeed an increasing number of supporters, unconvinced of a successful outcome.
Looking back over the past three seasons, the supporters increasing lack of belief shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Decision making has been questionable, recruitment shambolic and performances on the pitch progressively worse. Ask yourself how often Southend – whatever division they have been in – have been outside the relegation zone during that period. I know, it’s frightening, isn’t it!
With spectators still unable to attend football matches, social media remains a constant source of interaction, something the club is fully aware of. In that case, It can’t have gone unnoticed by the hierarchy that the Roots Hall faithful were largely unimpressed with their activity ahead of the transfer window closing. I’m sure Jacob Mellis is an honest professional. Indeed, more than 300 appearances, largely gleaned in the lower divisions, suggests he is well-drilled and battle-hardened for the task Southend are facing.
“Jacob has got great pedigree, he’s got good experience and an eye for a goal,” boss, Mark Molesley suggested on his arrival. But finding the net 18 times in 303 outings begs the question, who is the manager trying to convince with such a statement?
Southend’s only hope is to win football matches (surely, that is painfully obvious to everyone). The distinct lack of a reasonably potent frontman arriving has again left the fans perplexed and questioning not only the Blues chances of sustaining their Football League status but their actual ambitions of avoiding the drop as well.
I’d fully expect that the chairman, manager and anyone else on the inside at Roots Hall would answer those questions with positive defiance. But with time and opportunities continuing to diminish, the fanbase will make their own assumptions, particularly with the evidence provided on the pitch in recent times.
So what is the answer? Some have suggested Nile Ranger. Once highly regarded by Alan Shearer but blighted by disciplinary issues throughout his career.
During a previous stint at Southend, Ranger undoubtedly displayed glimpses, albeit briefly of his talent. But a quick search through the clubs’ archives exhumes several examples of a Club statement regarding Nile Ranger, none of which were particularly positive.
But now, at a time when the proverbial ‘troubled soul’ could prove to be Southend’s only chance, the silence coming out of Roots Hall is deafening. There are rumours that the 29-year-old is still struggling for fitness. Understandable considering he hasn’t played league football in more than two years. But a ‘no news is good news’ mentality doesn’t hold much weight at the moment. For now, the manager and team need a focal point, while the fans need, and indeed deserve, something to cling too, even if the final chapter offers a miserable outcome. Ask yourself right now; Do you think Southend are going down? Do you think Southend are going down without too much of a fight?
Nevertheless, unbeknown to me as I write this article, Messrs Martin, Molesley and co might well have a master plan in place – a player lined up to shoot Southend to safety. But at a period in time when more professional footballers than ever are kicking their heels without a club, the Blues attempts to land somebody, anybody, appears to be, at best, minimal.
Anyway, should they have better luck with the weather, Blues will head to play-off hopefuls, Newport County on Tuesday. A club that reformed and fought its way back following a double relegation in the late 80s before subsequently being expelled from the Conference (National League) and wound up with debts of £330,000 in February 1989. I’m sure at this point, some Southend fans are already making uneasy comparisons.
As for the match itself, I’ll keep it simple. County ended their recent winless sequence with a single-goal success over Grimsby at the weekend. They sit in fourth place in League Two, a point outside the automatic promotion places with games in hand over all of those ahead of them. Let’s not kid ourselves, this is going to be a tough ask for a Southend side rooted to the bottom with five wins to their name all season, lacking quality, confidence and a recognised goalscorer.
So there you have it. What steps in the right direction have Southend United taken since that 5-1 annihilation at Vale Park a week and a half ago? Personally, I remain extremely concerned.
Jeevesie’s prediction: Newport County 3-0 Southend United