PAUL Sturrock feels his Southend United side are underdogs to triumph against Leyton Orient tonight, despite taking a 1-0 lead in to the tie from the first leg.
Blues could be without as many as eight key players for this evening's JPT southern section final with the O's at Roots Hall.
And Sturrock believes the number of unavailabilities makes the East London team favourites to reach Wembley.
“With what's gone on here and the personnel we have out I think we're second favourites for the tie,” said Sturrock.
“We're missing the backbone of our team and I think that's been shown in the last couple of games that we've lost.
“Mark Phillips and Chris Barker will be given every chance to get themselves fit but if the match had been yesterday they wouldn't have played.
“So they could be out and when you add Ryan Cresswell, Bilel Mohsni, Michael Spillane, Michael Timlin and Gavin Tomlin to that list you're looking at seven members of what could well be our starting line up having to miss the game.
“Caolan Lavery is out for six to eight weeks now too as he's gone back to Sheffield Wednesday so it's going to be a huge task for us in what is the biggest game of the season so far.”
However, despite the difficulties facing his side, Sturrock is demanding a battling display from the few players he does still have available.
“We just have to roll our sleeves up and get on with it the best we can,” said the Blues boss.
“We will need to dig in and hopefully that can get us over the line because I also think that would help us kick on in our league campaign too.”
But most of all, success this evening would also see Southend play at Wembley for the first time since 1930 and that is something which excites the Scotsman.
“I would dearly love to get this club to Wembley for the fans and the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes,” said Sturrock.
“It would be an amazing day for us all but it's going to be very difficult indeed for it to actually happen.”