The signs are good for Southend United's season ahead

Shaq Coulthirst charges forward on his Southend United debut

Shaq Coulthirst charges forward on his Southend United debut

First published in Sport by

SOUTHEND United kicked off the new League Two season in encouraging fashion, winning 1-0 Accrington Stanley on Saturday.

Lee Barnard’s late penalty secured all three points for the Shrimpers.

And it was no more than their dominant display deserved.

Accrington failed to register a single shot on target at the Crown Ground and it was Blues’ refreshing attacking intent which ultimately enabled them to come out on top.

Last season, Southend performed well to make the play-offs.

But the success was built on being a steady, well organised side and having the best defensive record in the division.

However, at the other end of the field, the Shrimpers struggled for goals and Barry Corr was often left isolated in attack.

That could not have been further from the truth at Accrington though as Corr was regularly joined by three other team-mates in the forward line.

Kevan Hurst figured largely on the right hand side with new loan signing Shaq Coulthirst looking lively on the left.

His speed and direct running caused the hosts all kinds of problems and another summer signing, Myles Weston, added exactly the same attributes down the middle.

Such qualities were also lacking from the Shrimpers last season, until Jamar Loza arrived on loan from Norwich City.

And the improvement in the attacking was shown by Southend being awarded two penalties, exactly the same number they were given in their entire League Two campaign last season.

Corr failed with the first spot kick, which was saved by Accrington goalkeeper Luke Simpson, but Barnard made no mistake with the second.

The substitute striker kept his nerve to fire home and make a welcome return to the score-sheet.

Barnard struggled for fitness and form on his return to Roots Hall last season but worked tirelessly during the summer in a bid to get back to his best.

He confidently despatched the penalty at the weekend and will now be bidding to get back among the goals on a regular basis.

That will provide even more a selection headache for boss Phil Brown who now has real competition for places all over the pitch, especially in the midfield.

Conor Clifford got the nod ahead of Will Atkinson at the weekend and he responded by producing what was probably his best ever performance in a Southend shirt.

The energetic Irishman found it hard to nail down a regular starting slot last season and even failed to make the matchday squad at times towards the end of the term.

Two red cards did not help Clifford’s cause as the subsequent suspensions enabled others to excel in his position.

But his qualities were there for all to see at Accrington on Saturday and the challenge facing him is to now perform at such a high level on a consistent basis.

If he does then the Shrimpers will have a huge talent on their hands and their chances of securing success will be far higher.

That will also be dependent on Southend remaining solid at the back and, while tougher tests lie in store, the back four looked very strong on Saturday.

New signing Cian Bolger fitted in well and was hardly ever troubled by Accrington’s strikers.

He also showed excellent ability and composure on the ball and enabled Blues to build from the back.

With that and the clean sheet in mind, plus a positive contribution from David Worrall off the bench, it was a very pleasing start for the Shrimpers.

Things certainly look promising for the year ahead but the Shrimpers cannot afford to get too carried away as a 45 further tough tests still lay in store.

Lee Barnard’s late penalty secured all three points for the Shrimpers.

And it was no more than their dominant display deserved.

Accrington failed to register a single shot on target at the Crown Ground and it was Blues’ refreshing attacking intent which ultimately enabled them to come out on top.

Last season, Southend performed well to make the play-offs.

But the success was built on being a steady, well organised side and having the best defensive record in the division.

However, at the other end of the field, the Shrimpers struggled for goals and Barry Corr was often left isolated in attack.

That could not have been further from the truth at Accrington though as Corr was regularly joined by three other team-mates in the forward line.

Kevan Hurst figured largely on the right hand side with new loan signing Shaq Coulthirst looking lively on the left.

His speed and direct running caused the hosts all kinds of problems and another summer signing, Myles Weston, added exactly the same attributes down the middle.

Such qualities were also lacking from the Shrimpers last season, until Jamar Loza arrived on loan from Norwich City.

And the improvement in the attacking was shown by Southend being awarded two penalties, exactly the same number they were given in their entire League Two campaign last season.

Corr failed with the first spot kick, which was saved by Accrington goalkeeper Luke Simpson, but Barnard made no mistake with the second.

The substitute striker kept his nerve to fire home and make a welcome return to the score-sheet.

Barnard struggled for fitness and form on his return to Roots Hall last season but worked tirelessly during the summer in a bid to get back to his best.

He confidently despatched the penalty at the weekend and will now be bidding to get back among the goals on a regular basis.

That will provide even more a selection headache for boss Phil Brown who now has real competition for places all over the pitch, especially in the midfield.

Conor Clifford got the nod ahead of Will Atkinson at the weekend and he responded by producing what was probably his best ever performance in a Southend shirt.

The energetic Irishman found it hard to nail down a regular starting slot last season and even failed to make the matchday squad at times towards the end of the term.

Two red cards did not help Clifford’s cause as the subsequent suspensions enabled others to excel in his position.

But his qualities were there for all to see at Accrington on Saturday and the challenge facing him is to now perform at such a high level on a consistent basis.

If he does then the Shrimpers will have a huge talent on their hands and their chances of securing success will be far higher.

That will also be dependent on Southend remaining solid at the back and, while tougher tests lie in store, the back four looked very strong on Saturday.

New signing Cian Bolger fitted in well and was hardly ever troubled by Accrington’s strikers.

He also showed excellent ability and composure on the ball and enabled Blues to build from the back.

With that and the clean sheet in mind, plus a positive contribution from David Worrall off the bench, it was a very pleasing start for the Shrimpers.

Things certainly look promising for the year ahead but the Shrimpers cannot afford to get too carried away as a 45 further tough tests still lay in store.

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