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Southend United fail to build on upwards momentum
SOUTHEND United’s clash with Bury was set up as the perfect stage for the Shrimpers to continue the momentum built up from their midweek draw at Scunthorpe.
Phil Brown’s side impressively fought back from 2-0 down against the high-flying Iron to secure a share of the spoils.
And, at the time, the manner of the performance seemed to suggest that Blues were finally edging back to their best after an indifferent run of results.
Everyone connected with the club hoped the players’ confidence would have been boosted by the come-back and that it would act as a turning point in the Shrimpers’ stuttering season.
Playing at home to a Bury side starting the afternoon 19th in the League Two standings represented a great chance to build on the positive point and even the sun made a rare appearance!
But, once again, things did not go to plan for Blues and they have now not triumphed in their last 12 outings.
Unbelievably, after collecting just seven points from the last 33 on offer, the Shrimpers still remain in the play-off positions.
However, Saturday was another desperate disappointment as both sides struggled to create clear cut chances.
As a result, a rather drab and dreary encounter was served up and the afternoon contained just two shots on target, both of which came in the final four minutes.
On the positive side, Southend looked solid at the back and new loan signing Jakub Sokolik made a very encouraging debut at the heart of the defence.
Alongside him, John Egan again looked strong and, with Luke Prosser fit enough to be on the bench, Blues look to have the quality and cover in that area once again to remain defensively sound.
But, despite a few wobbles and injury concerns, Blues have – on the whole – been reasonably impressive at the back this season.
Yet it has been a completely different story at the other end of the pitch and that was again shown up on Saturday.
Striker Freddy Eastwood was called in for his first start since September but, in truth, he struggled and regularly gave the ball away in the final third of the pitch.
Eastwood also missed the game’s clearest chance in the second half but, in his defence, his style of play is clearly not suited to the lone striker’s role currently being employed by boss Brown.
Barry Corr’s physical attributes make him best suited to the position but he will now be sidelined for three games after being sent off on Saturday.
The Irishman was dismissed after being adjudged to have head-butted Shakers defender Frederic Veseli in an off the ball incident.
The decision seemed harsh and was perhaps indicative of the reputation Corr seems to now have with the match officials this season.
But, with that in mind and with the level of experience he possesses, Corr was silly to get involved in such a needless incident.
Despite his scoring record of eight goals in 43 games this term, the striker will be missed during his spell on the sidelines.
Lee Barnard remains the only other option in attack but he has yet to show any kind of form since returning to Roots Hall and has failed to score in eight games.
Barnard is also not suited to the 4-3-3 formation and it could well be time to tinker with that, unless Blues can bring in striking reinforcements.
But, with York City now level on points with Southend and, with Plymouth just one behind, the Shrimpers have now run out of breathing space.
The time has come for them to stand up and deliver if a top seven finish is to be secured.
And, you sense, it will be the creative qualities and their number of goals, which will ultimately decide their destiny during the final eight games of the season.