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Southend United will enter the play-offs in form
SOUTHEND United made mathematically sure of their place in the play-offs with Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Fleetwood Town.
Blues had all but already secured their place in the end of season lottery due to their superior goal difference.
But their share of the spoils at the weekend made completely sure of a top seven finish.
And the manner of the performance again showed that confidence in the Roots Hall camp should be high as they bid to secure promotion and a return to League One.
Blues more than matched another of the division’s top teams with a spirited and determined display.
And but for a couple of dubious refereeing decisions they could well have earned more than just a point.
The free-kick which led to Fleetwood’s goal seemed incredibly harsh while Southend could easily have been awarded a penalty for a challenge on Ben Coker in the second half.
But, despite those disappointments, it was another very positive and encouraging afternoon for the Shrimpers.
They looked well organised at the back with John Egan and Jakub Sokolik continuing their excellent partnership at the heart of the defence.
Behind them, Daniel Bentley remains one of the best and most promising goalkeepers at this level and he was again in excellent form against Fleetwood.
The midfield three were as energetic as ever and perhaps most encouragingly of all, the Shrimpers now also have a striker bang in form.
For much of the season the main criticism of Blues has been their lacking of a cutting edge in the final third of the pitch.
But Barry Corr’s first half header was his fourth in his last five games and the striker seems to be rediscovering his best form at just the right stage of the season.
However, the Shrimpers’ striking options have been reduced by Jamar Loza returning to Norwich City after finishing his month long loan stint with the club.
Loza’s pace offered an alternative option in attack and he shone brightly during the 3-0 win against Oxford United.
But after that the youngster struggled to make the same level of impact and his departure should not hit Blues that hard in the play-offs.
Who the Shrimpers face in the two legged semi-finals will now be at the forefront of everybody’s mind, as will which of the games will be played at Roots Hall.
If the table stayed the same as it is right now, then Southend would be facing more meetings with Fleetwood.
However, Blues should not be fearful of whoever they play.
Phil Brown’s side have taken four points out of six from both Fleetwood and York City this season while they also won their only meeting against Burton so far.
The Brewers visit Roots Hall this weekend and Southend will want to produce another positive performance to maintain their momentum going in to the play-offs.
As a result, it is important not to make too many changes to the starting line-up.
But it could well be worth having another look at Anthony Straker.
The winger has been on the bench for the last eight games but looked very bright after entering the action at Fleetwood.
And he deserves another opportunity, at least against Burton, to see if he can again reach those standards.
Whatever happens from now on in though, it has been an excellent season for the Shrimpers and plenty of progress has been made.
Blues are in form and looking strong at just the right stage of the season.
And they could not be better prepared for the exciting end of season show-downs which will decide their destiny and what division they will be in next year.