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Southend United's Neil Harris: Our cup runneth over with some great fixtures
THERE’S certainly plenty for the boys in the dressing room to be looking forward to at the moment, and I’m sure it’s the same for the supporters too.
After beating Oxford United in the JPT we’re now just one round away from a Wembley final and a two-legged area final against one of our local rivals, Leyton Orient, will be fantastic matches to play in.
We also have a huge FA Cup replay at Brentford next Tuesday, with the winners going on to play Chelsea in the next round.
And every league game we have at the moment is massive too.
We want to get back to winning ways in the league after losing our last two games and that makes Saturday’s encounter at Exeter City very important indeed.
They went above us in the table after winning last weekend, while we were playing in the FA Cup, and this is our chance to overtake them again.
It goes without saying that it will be a difficult game, but we’re going into the game in good spirits after a fantastic night at Oxford on Tuesday.
The game was a fantastic advert for the JPT as both managers selected strong starting line-ups and you could tell the players were going all out to try and win it.
The match had pretty much everything you could ask for, but there was a 20-minute spell in the second half when we looked superb and showed what a terrific side we can be when we keep the ball on the ground.
I was delighted for Barry Corr to get another couple of goals and he showed just what a brilliant and important member of our squad he is.
It’s been hard for him recently because after the euphoria and excitement of making a return after a long time out injured you’re always going to experience a slight dip.
When you go from a player coming back from a long-term injury to being a member of the first team again your body can take time to adjust.
But in the space of four days he’s got another four goals and I just hope I get to play alongside him one day!
Last season the plan was for Barry and I to line up in attack, but he was out injured, and now he’s back it’s me who has been on the treatment table.
However, I’m back fit now and hopefully we’ll get an opportunity to link up together because I think he’s a great player and he showed that with his second goal at Oxford.
It was also nice to see Elliot Benyon score the winning penalty at the Kassam Stadium because he’s a very popular member of our dressing room and he’s had a frustrating season so far.
He would like to have been involved in more matches, but him putting away the spot-kick again showed the importance of having a strong squad.
And who knows how much that penalty will prove to be worth to the club both financially and by possibly playing a part in us going on to reach a Wembley final.
The manager also decided to change goalkeepers for the shoot-out, with Daniel Bentley coming on to replace Paul Smith.
It was a big call from him and one that can make or break you, but Dan did well when we went to penalties against Bury and does well with them in training too.
He made a good save again to keep out a penalty from Alfie Potter to help get us through and getting the club through to the next stage of the competition was what mattered most.
Paul was disappointed about coming off and not getting the chance to finish what he started, but then so was Barry because he wanted to be among the penalty takers.
NO LAUGHING MATTER FOR LAIRDY
MARC Laird coming to the club on a permanent basis gave us all a huge boost because he showed during his loan spell with us that he's a fantastic player.
He has the ability to play at a higher level and it’s no coincidence our results started to improve when he first came in.
He’s well liked by everyone here and it’s fun having him around at the moment due to the state of his face after it suffered a couple of real whacks.
The first one came against Gillingham and when he was hit by the ball in Saturday’s game with Brentford we were of course incredibly sympathetic towards him and couldn’t stop laughing.
The only slight problem at the moment is that Lairdy can’t join in with any laughter because it hurts his face too much, but that makes it even funnier!
That probably seems quite cruel to those outside the dressing room, but it’s all part of the banter involved in football and again shows the spirit we have among our players.