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Chris Phillips looks back at Southend United's previous play-off campaigns
NOTHING can quite match the excitement and unpredictably of the end of season play-offs.
With so much at stake, the clashes create a unique nervousness and atmosphere which is far more intense than anything else which may have been experienced throughout the season.
The current campaign has been my 11th covering the fortunes of Southend United for the Echo.
And, should the Shrimpers make it to Wembley, then the final would be my 600th competitive game reporting for the paper.
In typical Southend fashion, there have been several turbulent moments during that time.
But the best and one of the worst both surround the play-offs.
For my favourite ever match remains the 2-0 victory against Lincoln City in the 2005 final at the Millennium Stadium.
It had already been quite some season for the Shrimpers but, with defeat to Wrexham in the LDV final and missing out on automatic promotion on the final day, it had been quite a painful one too.
With that in mind I had already prepared myself for a Southend defeat and having to write the same painful story several times with players who would rather be doing anything else than having to be interviewed.
But, in a never to be forgotten afternoon, Freddy Eastwood fired Blues in front before Duncan Jupp, of all people, also worked his way on to the score-sheet.
The subsequent celebrations lasted long in to the night and the quotes I received were more entertaining than usual as most of the players were slightly worse for wear when I spoke to them!
Sadly, my two other play-off experiences have left me contemplating hitting the bottle to commiserate rather than celebrate.
Three years after the Lincoln victory, Southend were trounced 5-1 at Doncaster in the second leg of the League One play-offs in a night which will forever be remembered for the Shrimpers’ fantastic travelling support.
More pain followed in 2012 when Blues were edged out 3-2 on aggregate by Crewe Alexandra after again missing out on automatic promotion on the final day of the regulation season.
The closeness of that defeat and one of the Crewe reporters continually listening to his dictaphone recording of the Railwaymen’s fans celebrating made it a very tough night in the press box.
But, having been through all that before, it is safe to make some conclusions.
Previous results will count for very little in the play-offs and the first leg is likely to be very nervy with not many goals.
After that game, someone will utter the cliché of it only being half-time.
And the matches will put everyone connected with the club through an agonising, emotional roller-coaster – especially one long suffering reporter in the press box!