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Southend United manager Phil Brown throws down gauntlet to midfield
SOUTHEND United manager Phil Brown has challenged the central midfielders in his squad to step up and ensure the injured Marc Laird is no longer missed.
Blues have lost all three of their matches since the Scotsman injured his hamstring during the 2-0 win against Northampton Town.
And, with Laird expected to be out for another four to six weeks, Brown is urging more players in the centre of the park to start showing what they can do.
“I do think we’ve missed Marc in the middle since his injury and nobody has really stepped up to the plate since he’s been forced out,” said Brown.
“Ryan Leonard has had some good games but there’s nobody standing out to be selected alongside him at this stage and that’s what we want to see.
“We need to get back to using the ball with the same quality we did when Marc was in the team and it’s certainly something we’ll be looking to do.
“Marc is still going to be out for another four to six weeks and someone needs to come forward to replace him.”
Conor Clifford was originally selected in place of Laird but he was unable to impress and was replaced by the fit-again Michael Timlin for Saturday’s 3-1 defeat against Morecambe.
Will Atkinson, Kevan Hurst and Jack Payne are also able to figure in the centre of the park and Brown could well be reconsidering his options in there for Friday night’s game against Scunthorpe United.
Blues have now been beaten in their last three outings but Brown has been impressed by the players’ reaction to the latest setback.
“The players trained well again yesterday and now it’s up to us to get them up for Friday’s game,” said Brown.
The Shrimpers will continue their preparations by playing AFC Wimbledon in a behind-closed-doors friendly this afternoon.
But Brown looks set to play an inexperienced side.
“We’ll have a young team out there because we don’t want more of our senior players getting injured,” said Brown.
“If you look at the bench in the first team at the moment we’ve got three young kids on there.
“We don’t have many options and we don’t want any more players to be forced out."
>THE STATISTICS also back up Brown’s view that Marc Laird is currently being missed by the Shrimpers.
Blues have won 41 per cent of the 29 matches Laird has started since he joined the club, originally on loan in October 2012.
But of the 19 games the Scotsman has not started during that time, Southend have won just 26 per cent.