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Another fruitless trip for Southend United at York City
SOUTHEND United’s winless streak was extended to seven matches following an uneventful 0-0 draw at York City on Saturday.
Both sides found it hard to create clear cut chances in a dull and dreary clash at Bootham Crescent.
And the share of the spoils meant the Shrimpers have still not won at the home of the Minstermen since 1987.
Eight unsuccessful attempts have come and gone during those 27 years.
But what will be causing manager Phil Brown more concern at the moment in time is his side’s current dip in form.
For since working their way up a strong position to push on and challenge for automatic promotion the Shrimpers have started to struggle.
An FA Cup defeat to Hull City came after the Shrimpers had been beaten just once in 15 games, but they have now taken just four points from the last 18 on offer and are beginning to look less like a side capable of securing a top seven finish.
Instead of looking forward in a bid to catch those teams above them in the automatic promotion places, Blues are now starting to look nervously over their shoulders as they strive to cling on to the final play-off position.
Thankfully, from their point of view, only one of the seven sides immediately below them in the standings, triumphed at the weekend and the seventh placed Shrimpers are still seven points clear of Newport, who are just outside the play-offs.
However, the Welshmen do still have three games in hand on Southend and will be desperately keen to close that gap, meaning Blues simply must soon rediscover that winning habit to keep alive their chances of returning to League One.
A more solid defensive display was the only really pleasing aspect of Saturday’s draw and Cian Bolger made a good first impression after signing on loan from Bolton Wanderers.
With the influential Luke Prosser still out with a thigh strain it was crucial the Shrimpers brought in a replacement and, on first view, Bolger seems to fit the bill.
He stood strong alongside an improved Adam Thompson at the centre of Southend’s defence, won numerous headers and was surprisingly good on the ball.
But, having previously suffered a nasty wound below his right eye which required five stitches, Bolger was later forced to limp off with an ankle injury.
And, after also losing the services of loanee Luke O’Neill to a problem sustained on his debut, Blues will now be hoping history does not repeat itself with Bolger.
On early impressions, his presence can help to again shore up the Shrimpers defence but the problems do still remain at the other end of the pitch.
Southend have now scored just five goals in their last six outings and, in truth, never looked like hitting the back of the net against York City.
Top goalscorer Kevan Hurst flashed one half chance across the face of goal and the closest Blues came to scoring was when Minstermen full-back Lanre Oyebanjo almost headed the ball in to his own goal just before the break.
At times, the Shrimpers’ attacking players were left isolated in the final third and were heavily outnumbered by York’s defenders which made it easier for the hosts’ defence to be able to clear their lines.
A balance between keeping a solid shape and becoming a threat in the final third therefore needs to be worked on if Blues are to turn around their recent run of indifferent results.
The team are still in a great position to secure a play-off position but they must rediscover some momentum and their form in front of goal if promotion is to remain a realistic proposition.