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Soft goal habit back to haunt Southend United at Bury
IT was a real case of so near yet so far for Southend United at Bury on Saturday, but that has been the story of the season up until now for the Shrimpers.
Blues again had the better of the game at Gigg Lane but only returned home with a point after conceding another soft goal during injury time.
And such a scenario has become a constant theme in the early part of the season for Southend.
Phil Brown’s side should have already taken more from matches against Chesterfield, Wycombe, Scunthorpe and now Bury.
But there are two ways of looking at those scorelines.
A positive point of view is to praise the football being played and the manner of the performances, which will hopefully bring greater reward in the near future.
However, the more negative angle is the fact that Blues have picked up just one point from a possible 12 in matches they have been on top in, and that has to be a real concern.
That also underlines the very thin line between success and failure in such a close and competitive league but it does not bode well for the Shrimpers.
The visitors, who are now 14th in the League Two table, looked like claiming a morale-boosting victory at Bury for the majority of Saturday’s match.
Blues withstood an early spell of pressure from their hosts and went in front midway through the first half when Ben Coker fired home a free-kick.
The goal seemed to have atoned for the full-back’s terrible mistake in his previous outing against Scunthorpe United when his misplaced header gifted the Iron the only goal of the game.
But, three minutes from time, Coker’s latest appearance also turned sour as he was sent off after being shown two yellow cards.
Of course, Blues should still have been able to see out the remaining minutes, despite their numerical disadvantage.
However, the fact that the free kick which led to Bury’s equalising goal was given away exactly where Coker would have been defending means his dismissal did prove decisive.
The set piece should still have been dealt with better by the rest of the team he left behind. But defending from dead ball situations remains a real Achilles heel for Phil Brown’s Shrimpers.
Five of the last nine goals Blues have conceded have now come from free kicks and 36 per cent of the 22 goals the Shrimpers have let in since Brown came to the club back in April have come from a failure to defend set pieces.
The latest of those left Brown furious at the final whistle and he perhaps went too far in his criticism of the players.
But at the same time it was easy to understand his frustration after seeing the Shrimpers let two more valuable points slip through their fingers.
Blues will be now be hoping to bounce back and end their five-match winless streak when they host Bristol Rovers at Roots Hall on Friday night.
However, as Brown attempts to help make that happen, his hands remain firmly tied behind his back – and here lies the biggest problem.
Ever since his appointment, the former Hull City boss has been forced to work under the restriction of a transfer embargo and this simply has to have had a huge impact on his plans.
Right now, every suspension and injury will hit his plans extra hard and, with Coker now also being forced to the sidelines with a one-match ban, Brown has just 16 players with a league start to their name available in his squad.
And until that is sorted and the Blues boss is finally given the freedom and the finances to bring in the leadership and experience his squad currently clearly lacks then you feel more frustrating afternoons, just like Saturday, may well lie ahead for the Shrimpers.