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Southend United suffer rare off day in Wales as Newport County run riot
IN RECENT seasons, Southend United’s visits to Wales have been among the more memorable matches.
Both of the promotions that Steve Tilson’s side secured in successive seasons were sealed in Wales as they triumphed at the Millennium Stadium before also earning a place in the Championship with a draw at Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium.
Before then, Blues had also scored with just eight men to win 3-2 at Swansea before a rare away win in the Championship came at Cardiff City, courtesy of a screaming volley from Lee Bradbury.
Those successful outings across the Severn Bridge will forever remain in club folklore.
But Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Newport County could not be any further from that.
The Shrimpers were well below their best and produced arguably their worst display of the season so far against a strong Newport side who probably should have won by a far more convincing margin.
Blues goalkeeper Daniel Bentley recovered well after making a rare mistake for Newport’s first goal and produced four fantastic saves to frustrate the home-side who dominated the second half.
The lively Conor Washington also sent a low shot against the left post, while Ryan Jackson had an effort cleared off the goal-line and failed to convert when clean through on goal.
The Shrimpers were therefore fortunate to escape with just a 3-1 defeat after a strangely disjointed performance which was in complete contrast to their form ahead of the game.
Blues arrived at Rodney Parade boasting the best defensive record in League Two but were made to look like plonkers by Justin Edinburgh’s side, especially immediatly after half-time.
Southend looked disjointed and disorganised at the back and desperately missed the calming presence of the more experienced Mark Phillips and John White who both missed the match with suspensions.
In White’s absence, young Ryan Auger was handed a well deserved debut at right-back after a number of impressive performances in the reserves.
The 19-year-old, who has come through the youth system with the Shrimpers, clearly has the potential to carve out a career in the Football League.
But, without much experience around him at the weekend, it was a real baptism of fire for Auger and Newport made the most of the situation continually playing the ball in behind him which, in turn, dragged Rob Kiernan out of position.
However, the defence was lacking its usual protection from the midfield and, ahead of them, the strikers rarely threatened during a desperately disappointing and, at times, simply dire display.
Making sure it does not happen again is now what matters most for Blues and having White available again will be a big boost for Friday night’s clash with Mansfield Town at Roots Hall.
Boss Phil Brown may also consider tinkering with the midfield and introducing the likes of Jack Payne, Michael Timlin and Freddy Eastwood, if fit.
His options do remain limited though, due to the restrictions he faces at Roots Hall, but the odd bad display tends to happen at League Two level where teams and players can often struggle for consistency.
One bad display does not suddenly make the Shrimpers a bad side but the challenge facing Brown and his players is to make the standard of Saturday’s display at Newport a one off and to soon get back to their best.
This current Southend side relies heavily on work-rate and organisation rather than creative qualities.
And those battling characteristics, which were strangely lacking against Newport, must quickly be rediscovered if Blues are to bounce back from a rare off day in Wales and quickly get back to winning ways.