Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting ECHONEWS to 80360, or email us »
Southend United's Paul Sturrock: This is reward for our fantastic fans
SOUTHEND United manager Paul Sturrock claimed reaching Wembley was a fantastic reward for the club’s loyal supporters.
More than 9,000 fans were in attendance last night as Blues secured a 2-2 draw and a 3-2 aggregate win against Leyton Orient to reach the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
And Sturrock admitted he was delighted to have put smiles back on the faces of the club’s loyal following.
“The fans of this football club have been through more than most in the last few years and this win and reaching Wembley is for them,” said the Blues boss.
“Their backing was brilliant again tonight and I’m so pleased we were able to do it for them.
“I think only four of our players have stepped on to the pitch at Wembley before as well and that might not be the new Wembley either so it’s a real reward for them too.
“The people behind the scenes who work tirelessly deserve this too and being selfish I’m delighted as well because I’ve not been to Wembley before as a manager and this is something for us all to look forward to.”
Blues will take on Crewe Alexandra in the final on Sunday April 7 in what will be a repeat of last season’s play-off semi final which went the way of the Railwaymen.
And Sturrock is hoping for a better result this time around.
“It’s a chance for us to get revenge against them but we can’t afford to forget about the league,” said the Scotsman.
“We are still in a position to go up and we have an important game at Wycombe on Saturday.
“But hopefully reaching Wembley in the JPT will add extra impetus to our league campaign and help us get the points we need.”
Captain Chris Barker was also full of smiles after leading his team to a hard fought triumph over the two legs.
And he was full of praise for the team.
“We really dug in and this shows the spirit we have here now,” said Barker, who recovered from a calf problem to play.
“In 1999 I played something like 35 games in a row for Barnsley and was then dropped for the play-off against Ipswich.
“That was a huge disappointment for me and my career but hopefully I can play this time and I’m sure the fans will come out in big numbers.
"It’s definitely going to be something for us all to remember I’m sure and it was a brilliant moment when Ben's shot went in because I think everyone in the ground thought it was going to penalties."