Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting ECHONEWS to 80360, or email us »
Win at Port Vale was just the kickstart Southend United needed
SOUTHEND United’s play offs aspirations were reignited with an impressive 2-1 triumph at high-flying Port Vale on Saturday.
Coming on the back of a dire defeat at Barnet and conceding a disappointing last minute equaliser against Rotherham United, Blues produced their best performance since winning at Dagenham & Redbridge on Boxing Day.
And that was exactly what was needed to keep alive Southend’s hopes of securing a top seven finish.
Blues bossed the opening 45 minutes at Vale Park and finally ended their first half goal drought with Sean Clohessy and Britt Assombalonga both working their way on to the score-sheet.
That came after Southend had gone 12 matches, two months and almost 600 minutes without finding the back of the net before half time.
But that barren run ended at Vale Park, in what was a day to remember for two of Blues’ unsung heroes.
First, Clohessy put the team in front with an expertly taken penalty to rightfully receive recognition and some of the limelight.
For the reliable right-back often goes unnoticed in Southend’s back four.
However, he has now started 58 matches in succession and the number of bad matches during that run can be counted on just one hand.
Furthermore, it was also an afternoon to remember with great fondness for Blues’ assistant Graham Coughlan.
The Irishman works tirelessly behind the scenes at Roots Hall and is another who does not get the praise he deserves.
But, with manager Paul Sturrock unwell at the weekend, Coughlan took centre stage and guided the side to a very valuable win.
Assombalonga played a huge part in that happening as, despite leading the line on his own for most of the afternoon, the striker caused Vale’s defence problems with his pace and power.
That eventually resulted in the striker bagging his 14th goal of the season and he will now be bidding to hit those highs on a regular basis, just like he did towards the start of the current campaign.
It was not just Assombalonga on form at Vale Park though as Matthew Lund again impressed in midfield and Blues must seek to extend his loan spell from Stoke City which expires after tomorrow night’s game with AFC Wimbledon.
Alongside him, Mickey Spillane produced his best performance since signing in January and, late on, Neil Harris, also got a rare outing from the substitutes bench.
His experience could well start to prove crucial though as Blues currently boast quite a young starting line-up.
In fact, 27-year-old Kevan Hurst was the oldest outfield player in Blues’ side on Saturday which, minus goalkeeper Paul Smith, had an average age of just24.6.
The planned arrival of Tamika Mkandawire on loan from Millwall will help bring more experience to the side, while Marc Laird and Gavin Tomlin are also not far from coming back injury.
That will increase Sturrock’s options when he returns to the Roots Hall hot seat and he must somehow find a way to improve his side’s home form and their record against teams down towards the foot of the table if they are to work their way up the table.
Only five teams in the whole of League Two have won fewer games on their own ground but Blues now have a great opportunity to add to their six home wins when they take on three of the bottom four, AFC Wimbledon, Torquay United and Plymouth Argyle, in the space of seven days.
Those games will huge a huge say in determining Southend’s destiny this season.
But for it to come to a successful conclusion, Blues will also need to do better against struggling sides.
So far this season, they have won just two games out of nine against the bottom seven teams and have taking just 10 points from a possible 27.
That is simply not good enough for a side seriously hoping to push for promotion and Southend must sort that record out in the next seven days or another season in League Two looms large.