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Southend United supporters get welcome treat with win against Mansfield Town
HALLOWEEN weekend fell rather fittingly for Southend United this season as, right now, the club’s supporters never know if they will be in for a trick or a treat when watching their side.
Last weekend, the Shrimpers produced by far their worst display of the campaign so far when losing 3-1 at Newport County.
But, on Friday night, Blues looked a completely different team as they easily brushed aside Mansfield Town 3-0 at Roots Hall in one of their most impressive performances since the start of the season.
The Shrimpers could and probably should have scored three goals in the opening 15 minutes of the match before Anthony Straker finally put them ahead.
And, after that breakthrough, Phil Brown’s side never looked at all troubled by a poor Mansfield side.
Things were not so straight forward before kick off when Rob Kiernan and Cauley Woodrow both had to drop down on to the bench after being stuck in traffic on the M25.
However, that bizarre situation seemed to set the tone for a crazy opening 45 minutes which included two red cards and one of the strangest goals seen at Roots Hall in recent seasons.
Stags striker James Alabi was ordered off after a reckless challenge on Shrimpers centre-back Luke Prosser before Conor Clifford was also sent off for Southend.
The aggressive midfielder was shown a straight red card for a two footed tackle on visiting forward Calvin Andrew and, with such a small squad, the number of suspensions are becoming a real concern for Blues.
Including Barry Corr’s dismissal at Hartlepool United, which was later rescinded, Southend have already been shown four red cards this season.
John White and Luke Prosser have both also been banned after accumulating five yellow cards and Blues cannot afford to keep missing the more influential members of their squad.
But, despite his recent good form, Clifford’s three match suspension may not hit the team too hard, due to the other players available in midfield.
Michael Timlin, in particular, will now be looking to make the most of Clifford’s absence and the midfielder looked back to his best against Mansfield.
The former Swindon Town man endured a frustrating start to the season as he attempted to fight his way back to full fitness and form after suffering a broken leg at Leyton Orient last February.
Yet he showed on Friday, after coming in to the side at the last minute, how he is able to help Blues boss a key area of the pitch.
Timlin will now be looking to build on the encouraging display and Marc Laird will also be looking to get back in the team after making a welcome return from injury.
The Scotsman had been out of action since mid August but came on towards the end of Friday night’s win and will now be chasing more first team opportunities.
Add Ryan Leonard, Will Atkinson and Jack Payne in to the equation and you can see just why midfield remains the most keenly contested area of the Shrimpers side.
But Timlin and Laird both boast good experience and that is something Blues have been lacking for most of the season.
Inexperience often brings inconsistency and that has been the case so far this term for the Shrimpers.
Boss Phil Brown is still unable to bring any new signings to the club so he will be looking to get as much as he can from the older heads already in his squad.
They will have a crucial part to play in the remainder of the campaign as there is very little to be frightened of in League Two this term.
Friday night showed what the Shrimpers are capable of when they hit top form.
But the challenge facing them is to reach those standards on a more consistent basis.
And that will result in more treats on a more regular basis for their supporters.