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Kevan Hurst bags goal to give Southend United a draw with Rochdale
WITH two teams going head to head with identical records and points it was perhaps not a surprise that Southend United’s clash with Rochdale ended in a draw at Roots Hall on Friday night.
Dale threatened to win away at the Shrimpers for the first time in 28 years when Jamie Allen put them in front with a fine finish after just 14 minutes.
But Kevan Hurst’s well-taken goal just before the half-time break ensured a mostly uneventful encounter ended all square.
Both sides suggested it was a fair score-line at the final whistle and it probably was as, aside from the goals, little else happened in the difficult, windy conditions which made it hard for either team to get territorially on top.
Neither of the goalkeepers therefore had much to do and the only real other excitement came when Luke Prosser did exceptionally well to pull off an excellent double block on the goal-line when Rochdale were 1-0 up.
And, at the other end of the pitch, Blues striker Barry Corr sent a late header against the top of the crossbar.
That effort continued Corr’s frustration in front of goal and followed the glaring chance he missed at Torquay last weekend.
The week before that the Irishman had failed to convert a penalty and he has now scored just once in his last 11 games. The targetman should not be doubted and has consistently proved his goal-scoring capabilities during his stint with the Shrimpers.
But Blues do need to find a way to get Corr back firing on all cylinders once again to make the team a far more dangerous proposition in the final third of the pitch.
For right now there seems to be an over-reliance on the creative qualities of Hurst.
The winger again hit the back of the net against Rochdale and has now scored five goals in his last six games.
Hurst has also netted Blues’ last three goals and leads the scoring charts for the season with eight goals to his name.
The 28-year-old has excelled in the 4-3-3 formation currently being used by Shrimpers boss Phil Brown and it could be argued that such is his part in the system that he is actually lining up as a striker.
But with Corr not his usual prolific self in front of goal at this stage, Freddy Eastwood struggling for fitness, Cauley Woodrow scoring three times in 14 games and Craig Reid not even able to make the squad at the moment, Blues are short of in-form strikers.
Their effort, organisation and spirit again saw them avoid defeat on Friday night but if that is to result in a top seven finish then you sense the Shrimpers must start to score more often.
Blues have scored 26 goals in their 21 league games so far and that is fewer than any other team in the top half of the table.
That ratio must improve to increase Southend’s chances of success but the team and managerial stuff deserve immense credit for being in the play-off positions at this stage of the season.
With the financial restrictions and transfer embargo currently in place at Roots Hall, wonders are being worked for Blues to be seventh in the League Two standings. However, those promotion credentials are about to face a stern examination in what could prove to be a crucial few weeks for Phil Brown’s side.
For not only do the Shrimpers play three times in the space of just six days but the January transfer window will soon also be re-opening.
During that time, it is more than likely that Blues’ promotion rivals will be strengthening their squads and Brown must be able to do the same to keep alive hopes of a top-seven finish.
Last season, the push for promotion was derailed when players started to tire as the games began to mount up.
Lessons now need to be learnt from what went wrong and the work-load must be shared – along with the goals – if there is to be a more successful conclusion to Southend United’s season this time around.