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Southend United's Burton Albion dress rehearsal gave very little away
SATURDAY'S game with Burton Albion could have been seen as a dress rehearsal for the forthcoming rematch for the play-offs.
But such was the cagey manner of the match at Roots Hall, neither of the sides are likely to have learnt much about their opponents.
Blues did well to grind out their seventh 1-0 win of their season.
And it was the game's only real moment of true quality which swung the clash in their favour.
Ryan Leonard, who was deservedly named player of the season before kick-off, started the move with a delightful cross-field pass in to the path of Kevan Hurst on the left flank.
The winger then delivered an inch perfect cross which enabled Barry Corr to continue his fine run of goalscoring form with a firm close range header.
After a season of frustration in front of goal, Corr is coming in to form at just the right time and has now hit the back of the net five times in his last six outings.
Equally as impressive is the organisation at the other end of the field which has seen the Shrimpers keep 20 clean sheets this term.
That has seen them end the regular season with the best defensive record in the division and, when you also throw the energy levels of the midfield in to the equation, you have to fancy Blues' chances in the play-offs.
Being at home in the second leg of the semi-final should also give them an advantage.
But the stark reality of the situation is that whatever has previously happened no longer counts for anything.
Last time the Shrimpers made the League Two play-offs, back in 2012, they met a Crewe Alexandra side they had beaten twice in the league that term.
Paul Sturrock's side were also at Roots Hall in the second leg yet still found themselves unable to work their way past the Railwaymen.
Southend will be hoping history does not repeat itself and they certainly seem far stronger and, perhaps more importantly, they also seem far more together as a team.
That should stand them in good stead but, whatever happens in the next fortnight, the Shrimpers deserve to be congratulated for their season.
After all, the campaign kicked off with reasonably low expectations and has ended with Blues deservedly among the play-off positions.
Huge progress has been made during the past 10 months but now is make or break time for the season.
And, arguably the immediate future of the club.
Promotion would make it far easier to keep the likes of Daniel Bentley, John Egan and Jakub Sokolik at the club and would also see more money being generated to slightly ease the Shrimpers' fragile finances.
But those fears and concerns are not worth thinking about at this stage, because the two forthcoming battles with Burton are all that matter.
Southend may have been at full strength on Saturday but, without any shadow of a doubt, they easily had more gears to go in to had they been needed.
Burton, who made five changes to their starting line-up, seemed far less up for the game and will need to make significant improvements if they are to trouble Phil Brown's team and keep alive their own promotion aspirations.
Deep down their manager Gary Rowett must know that too despite his comments at the end of Saturday's game which claimed he was incredibly confident of coming out on top.
However, talk is cheap at this stage of the season and the game at the weekend was actually a tepid affair which saw neither side give much away.
The next two meetings will be completely different with so much more at stake and the tie is arguably too close to call.
As a result, nobody can be sure what to expect and a combination of Southend United's turbulent traits and the drama of the play-offs means incredible excitement and nerve racking tension are the only guarantees