Times like these…

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

We called for a reaction and waited with bated breath…

Rather pleasingly, Southend United provided it. Sure, there were one or two early lingering cobwebs from the disappointing defeat at the hands of our newfound bogey team, Dagenham & Redbridge. Indeed, Matty Kosylo was desperately unlucky not to give visitors, Altrincham an early lead with a thumping strike that somehow rebounded to safety via both uprights.

But once Southend had overcome a nervy opening gambit, they settled, took charge and ruthlessly killed the contest with two goals in five first-half minutes from Nathan Ralph and Matt Dennis.

We’d have loved another couple of goals after the interval, but that’s just being picky. All in all, the game management was to be admired. Altrincham are a decent side. Perhaps we have the Indian sign over them, similarly to the Daggers over us? Whatever, we were provided with reasonable evidence that this group of footballers are buying into what the manager demands and are honest enough to take it on the chin when it goes wrong and come back stronger.  

Special mention to the Blues goalscorers. Firstly, Nathan Ralph. I must admit, I couldn’t exactly see what he brought to the table after arriving at Roots Hall from Dundee back in July 2019. largely viewing the player as another ill-fitting piece the poorly assembled Southend United jigsaw. 

Harsh? It was my opinion! Blues were poor, I was an angry supporter, the players, and a fair few managers got it in the neck! 

But I’m big enough and ugly enough to admit that Ralph has proved me wrong. His performances, particularly since Kevin Maher took charge, have been terrific. 

A consistent performer during the recent run. His improvement, for me, matches that of the team. His England ‘C’ call-up is well-merited, as was handing him the armband ahead of the Altrincham game. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Well done, Nathan. More of the same, please.

It was great to see Matt Dennis back in the starting line-up and equally, finding the net. I was speaking to former West Ham United forward, Brian Dear after the game. A man with a one in two, record in front of goal throughout his career.

We both agreed. Goalscorers are a rare commodity, whether it be a kids team over the park or in the Premier League. Watch them. They know where to go to get their goals.

I recently referred Paul McCallum at Dagenham & Redbridge. His teammates know where he wants the ball. He makes sure to get there. Muscling in front of defenders, getting on the end of things in the six-yard box. Remember that a scruffy tap-in from two yards is just as important as a thunderbolt from thirty.

Dennis has acquired that same mentality. He made sure to be in the right place at the right time, profiting from Jack Bridge’s toil to double Southend’s lead. Eight goals in fourteen appearances isn’t to be sniffed at. No doubt, his parent club, Norwich City will be monitoring his progress, as will several other clubs, keen to acquire his services. 

I think it’s fair to say that Blues will do very well to keep hold of him. Perhaps similarly to Stan Collymore, back in the day. Enjoy him while we can.

It’s also worth mentioning Bridge. The tenacious midfielder looked in the mood when arriving as a second-half substitute against the Daggers. He’s had to be patient following a lengthy lay-off after knee surgery. Southend’s recent good form ensured the 26-year-old a little longer on the sideline. However, a professional attitude, desire to come back stronger and offer something to an already much-improved team is something to be admired.

Personally, I thought he was Southend’s best player against Altrincham. Hopefully, the player can now remain injury-free and get a run of games under his belt between now and the end of the season.

Anyway, immediately in front of us is a trip to an out of sorts Maidenhead United. 

The Magpies are without a win in five, but Blues fans will recall they earned a 1-1 draw at Roots Hall back in December and were perhaps a little unlucky not to snatch all three points after former Shrimper, Kane Ferdinand had cancelled out Rhys Murphy’s first-half opener.

Blues supporters trudged away somewhat disgruntled that evening. But little did we realise the sizable turnaround in fortunes that were to follow.

Despite their lowly league placing, Alan Devonshire’s men have little fear of the drop. The manager has a philosophy for playing good football and in Josh Kelly, has a frontman with an impressive 14 goals in 33 matches this season.

But these are the type of games Southend need to be winning. Again, Blues fans are travelling in great numbers. I fully expect the team to respond to their encouragement and record a sixth away success of a fascinating campaign.

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

Brian Jeeves

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