SOUTHEND AC’s senior men’s team had a tough start to their British League Division Two campaign but team manager Keith Palmer is confident they will bounce right back.

The Seasiders went into the league opener at Basingstoke with nine quality new signings among their ranks.

But that injection of quality was compromised by the fact that 10 of Southend’s key athletes were out for a variety of reasons including exams, injury and family commitments.

It meant they ended up finishing bottom of the table once all the points had been added up.

Palmer said: “It was a shame one or two fortunes in our favour and the whole result could have been so different.

“It just goes to show that, at this level, there is no leeway and we must be at full strength to allow for mishaps on the day.

“We’ll put this behind us now, there really wasn’t much in it between the teams in the end and knowing that we do have a squad to seriously challenge this division we look forward to the return of many athletes for the second match on June 7 at Southampton, and hopefully turning the situation around.”

Illness caused top sprinter Lee Dollard to withdraw from any further action after his 100m and fitness problems to Southend’s other sprinter meant last minute replacements in the 200m and relays where last places were then recorded, and vital points lost, whilst injury and fatigue meant some other events were performed slightly under par.

International Adam Hickey showed his class though as he won the A-string 1500m in 3m 58.96s and then 25 minutes later achieved third in the A-string 3,000m in 8m 23.83s.

Rhys Gillard ran close to his personal best (PB) with 4m 35.48s in the B-string 1,500m with National Intercounties Under-17 Cross Country champion Jordan Rowe winning the B-string 3,000m in 8m 48.32s.

Southern Counties champion Jake King was second in the 400m A-string in 48.92s and fourth in the 100m B-string with 11.39s.

Lee Dollard was sixth in the A-string 100m with 11.40s, with Oliver Best fifth in the B-string 400m (51.49s).

Club record holder Tom Frith was fourth in the 800m A-string in 1m 56.43s and county champion Bradley Reed was fifth in the 110m hurdles A-string in 15.42s after also clocking 58.34s for third in the 400m hurdles B-string.

The 3,000m steeplechase saw Pat Walsh try the event for the first time and he managed a commendable 10m 35.0s for seventh in the A-string with veteran chaser Mark Waine fifth in the B-string in 11m 13.74s.

The jumps saw under-17 Inigo Iruskieta leap 12.04m for seventh in the A-string triple jump with injured county champion Kevin Brown limping to 11.81m for a noble fifth in the B-string.

Another county champion Terry Lucas was fifth in the A-string long jump with 6.61m.

The throws saw hammer thrower James Hamblin win the event with 54.02m and discus thrower Tariq Martin second with 42.46m.

Unfortunately, rules governing the number of higher claim athletes allowed per team meant on this occasion they had to guest, with two all rounders Rob Earle and Jake Allen being chosen to score.

Earle and Allen were both third in the hammer A-string and B-string with 49.84m and 41.07m respectively.

Earle was fouth in the A-string discus with 38.75m while Allen was second in the B-string with 37.17m.

In the shot, Allen was seventh in the A-string with 11.58m while Earle was third in the B-string with 11.54m.

Skipper Greg Goodrem was the busiest athlete of the day, mopping up the 400m hurdles, 110m hurdles, high jump, and both relays, while Tom Metcalf will have been exhausted after doing the javelin, long jump, pole vault, 200m and the 4x400m relay.