Southend United v Stockport County and Wealdstone v Southend United – Vanarama National League – Roots Hall Stadium and Grosvenor Vale Stadium – Saturday 5:20pm and Monday 3pm – Preview
Saturday, August 21 – The Walks Stadium – 4:50pm…
Referee, Daniel Middleton gives a final blast on his whistle. For the time being, we can refer to our favourites as ‘Unbeaten Southend United’.
The overriding positive is that it was three points. Nevertheless, Blues single goal success over King’s Lynn Town left plenty to chew the fat over.
There’s a reasonable amount to be positive over, although Blues will face far stiffer tests than this one.
Firstly, the Southend support was tremendous. A highlight for me was an elderly gentleman sporting a King’s Lynn scarf making his way to the press box offering credit to the Blues fans for enhancing the occasion with their noise and impeccable behaviour. Well done to all concerned.
On to football. Yes, it was a win on the road. A potential banana skin was avoided. Southend started the game extremely brightly. Sam Dalby supplied an excellent finish to a flowing move – Then what?
Blues did the dirty jobs well. It was a typical ‘Phil Brown performance’ – gritty, determined but not always pretty. The clean sheet mentality is another welcome addition. This is the third since Brown returned to the hot seat and without looking to run before we can walk, is a firm base for any team holding aspirations of a promotion push.
Nevertheless, non-league defenders can only do so much – after all, that is why they are playing at this level. Blues never really took control of the midfield – perhaps largely due to the direct nature of the hosts.
During the early part of Brown’s first spell at Roots Hall, it was painfully obvious that Southend struggled when a despairing opponent went direct, usually in an attempt to salvage a game in its later stages. As the game wore on and King’s Lynn became more desperate, Blues were pushed further and further back towards their own goal, often trying to play their way out on a pitch seemingly prepared to hinder possession and passing football.
I think Blues needs to learn how to mix it. Go long and bully, a tactic that will be deployed against them more this season than they have been used to in the past. Sure, some teams will come to play football, then it is down to your ability, confidence and quality. Stockport, Wrexham and Notts County might well provide that type of challenge. But largely, it will be a case of ‘Up and at ‘em’ from the opposition, and there are plenty of teams that will adapt and execute it far better than King’s Lynn.
Brown is an experienced manager but will be learning about the National League along with the rest of us. Sure, King’s Lynn won’t be anywhere near the top end of the table, but the Blues boss will have gleaned plenty from the game and is realistic enough to realise there is a long way to go.
In attack, Dalby impressed, not only with his finish but general hold up and link play. However, Rhys Murphy needs to be doing better. The former Arsenal trainee passed up several opportunities to put the contest to bed, ensuring an uncomfortable finale in which ten-man Town almost snatched a point when Munashe Sundire’s looping header came back off the frame of the goal.
Perhaps it was one of those days for Murphy? His record with Chelmsford City and Yeovil suggests he has goals in him. The coming weeks will give us a clearer picture of his ability and that of the team in continuingly creating the type of chances he received at The Walks.
What else? Goalkeeper Steve Arnold displayed a safe pair of hands. His kicking and distribution sometimes left a little to be desired, but as for coming for crosses and marshalling his backline, this is a significant upgrade on where we have been in recent seasons.
Blues followed up the three points with a new, well newish, arrival. I’ve been quite critical of recruitment at Southend United in recent times – Enter Will Atkinson. Now, this is good business from the Blues.
Credit where credit is due. Brown knows the player and what he is capable of delivering. A short-term deal allows both parties an opportunity to dip their toe in the water, so to speak.
The lads’ ability and attitude was never in question during his first spell at Root Hall. Brown has already managed to get a tune out of a number of our proverbial ‘damaged instruments’ – But in this case, he knows he has something to work with. Another positive.
Southend now face a challenging Bank Holiday programme in which they face very different opposition in the shape of Stockport County and Wealdstone.
I must admit, initially, I didn’t fancy us against Stockport County. Despite their opening day defeat, I expect them to be in the top two come to the end of the season.
County has invested ambitiously. Eyecatching signings such as Paddy Madden, Ben Barclay and Scott Quigley confirmed their desire for a return to the EFL. However, against a decent Dagenham & Redbridge side that I’d describe as a significant upgrade on King’s Lynn in terms of similar style, but greater quality and ability, County were found wanting.
The pressure is on County, momentum with Blues – I think a draw would be a decent return, particularly as we are still very much finding our feet.
Meanwhile, Wealdstone went down by the odd goal in three at home to Woking first time out. It was interesting to hear their assistant manager, Matt Saunders suggest that their young side looked nervous in the opening period, particularly as Southend were quick out of the traps up in Norfolk.
Similarly to King’s Lynn, Wealdstone could struggle again this season but might see this one as a bit of a free-hit – the pressure switching on to Southend who undoubtedly head to the Grosvenor Vale Stadium as favourites and again backed by a big percentage of a near-capacity crowd.
It’s another potential banana skin, but I don’t see Southend slipping on this one. A similarly gritty display to last week, with a little more ruthlessness thrown in, should suffice in West London.
What’s this? I hear you cry – Old Jeevesie providing a largely positive preview. Well, I’ll continue to call it as I see it, fairly and honestly but without compromise.
Jeevesie’s prediction: Southend United 1-1 Stockport County
Jeevesie’s prediction: Wealdstone 0-2 Southend United