Early red card pours cold water on Southend United's hopes at Plymouth Argyle

Ryan Leonard shows his disappointment

Ryan Leonard shows his disappointment

First published in Sport
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SEVERAL of Southend United’s players and staff joined in with the Ice Bucket Challenge in the build up to Saturday’s game at Plymouth Argyle.

But it was an early red card shown to centre-back Cian Bolger which poured cold water on their hopes of returning to winning ways against the Pilgrims.

Bolger could simply not get to grips with Pilgrims striker Marvin Morgan and his pace caused the Irishman all kinds of problems in the opening exchanges.

Bolger picked up his first booking after just four minutes and was then also brushed aside by Morgan, only for his dangerous cross to be intercepted by Ben Coker.

Moments later, Bolger fouled Morgan again, pulling at his shirt as the striker sped away from him down the left flank.

Being truthful, that challenge should have seen the defender dismissed and it should definitely have made him tread carefully following a stern lecture from referee Brendan Malone.

Yet, literally seconds later, Bolger was again too tight to Morgan who turned him once more before brought brought down and there could have been no doubts about the decision.

But there can be huge complaints about the refereee’s other game defining moment as he somehow failed to award a penalty when Adam Thompson was brought down by Morgan inside the area.

The referee actually seemed to put the whistle in his mouth before changing his mind and opting to wave play on.

And, after that and, Bolger’s red card, you sensed it was not going to be the Shrimpers’ day.

But to their credit they still shaded the first half and definitely saw more of the ball, thanks to some impressive passing, Chances remained few and far between, with skipper John White slightly snatching at the best of the bunch which came his way in the first half.

With that in mind, goalscoring definitely remains Blues’ biggest problem and something which simply has to be rectified if they are to achieve any kind of success this season.

Saturday was slightly different of course and playing with a numerical disadvantage for 75 minutes would be tough for any team, whatever their striking prowess.

However, Southend have now netted just four goals in their opening five games of the season and one of those – Lee Barnard's effort against Accrington Stanley – came from the penalty spot on the opening day of the season.

Only three other teams in the whole of League Two have scored fewer and it is the area causing the most concern for Blues right now.

Blaming that for Saturday's reverse would be incredibly harsh and probably unfair due to Bolger's early dismissal.

But one thing the game again did show was the lack of threat the Shrimpers currently pose from set pieces which are delivered in to the penalty area.

Being down to 10 men, corners and free-kicks in and around should have arguably represented Blues' best chance to score.

However, the Plymouth defence easily dealt with what was thrown at them and, as a result, Southend have now scored just two goals in their last 24 games from set pieces delivered in to the box.

That is a ratio which also needs to be improved in order for Blues to start scoring more regularly and increase their chances of winning promotion this season.

Saturday's display was not actually a disaster and Phil Brown's side played some fantastic football, especially in the first half.

But the defeat means the Shrimpers have now collected just one point from their last three games and they currently sit 14th in the League Two table.

For that to be improved they must start to score more goals and, as the weekend showed, they cannot afford to pick up needless red cards either.

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