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No pain, no gain for Southend United saviour Freddy Eastwood
FREDDY Eastwood needed a pain-killing injection on a hamstring injury to be able to figure for Southend United at Burton Albion on Saturday.
But, after he came off the bench at the Pirelli Stadium to bag an injury time winner, it was very much the Brewers who had the needle.
Eastwood rolled the back the years to lash home a last gasp individual effort to ensure victory for the Shrimpers with his fifth goal of the season.
However, up until his impressive intervention in the second minute of stoppage time, Phil Brown’s side looked like having to settle for a share of the spoils against a battling Burton who played the whole second half with only 10 men after striker Billy Kee was dismissed.
Kee was shown a second yellow card after clattering into Blues full-back Ben Coker in a first half which saw a number of strong and often late challenges being made.
But, after play eventually settled down, the Shrimpers began to enjoy more of the ball, without creating too many chances in front of goal.
Blues found it hard to break through a stubborn Burton defence and therefore rarely forced goalkeeper Jordan Pickford into action until Eastwood’s late winner.
Such a scenario is nothing new for Southend though as they have scored fewer goals than any other team in the top 18 of the current League Two table.
The Shrimpers have now netted 12 goals in 11 games and only four teams in the division have scored fewer.
However, at the other end of the field at the Pirelli Stadium, Blues were very solid in defence with new loan signing Rob Kiernan looking assured during an impressive debut.
Southend have been crying out for defensive reinforcements since Julian Bennett’s injury and were given permission by the Football League to bring in Kiernan.
He will now be looking to build on his successful start and help Blues continue what is a surprisingly good defensive record.
The Shrimpers have conceded just 10 league goals so far this season and only two teams – Chesterfield and Scunthorpe – have conceded fewer strikes in the entire division.
The resolute defensive display at Burton also meant Eastwood’s moment of magic was enough to win the game.
But while, the striker’s effort will deservedly be praised and hit the headlines, it was the impact of another substitute which also played a huge part in the Shrimpers coming out on top.
For, up until Jack Payne was introduced in the midfield, Burton were beginning to look more assured and more comfortable, despite their numerical disadvantage.
However, Payne’s enthusiasm to get on the ball saw Southend increase their possession and, subsequently, the tempo of their play which ultimately led to Eastwood’s winner.
As a result, Payne must now be close to working his way into Brown’s starting line-up due to the impact he continues to have, especially as the Shrimpers are struggling to carve open opposing defences.
Payne’s latest cameo also helped Blues bounce back from their humiliating 5-2 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat against Dagenham & Redbridge.
Blues made six changes from that side and looked far stronger with their more familiar starting line-up as they secured a second successive victory to move back up to 10th in the standings.
That will have raised the spirits among the squad and the supporters and, with the addition of Kiernan, Brown does now have options at his disposal in all areas of the pitch.
Injuries and suspensions will continue to hit them hard, due to the transfer embargo that remains in place.
But, if the focus can remain on the football and not the finances, then the Shrimpers have shown they have the spirit and skill to test any team at this level.
And they will want to prove that again this Friday when Fleetwood Town visit Roots Hall.