Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting ECHONEWS to 80360, or email us »
Frustrating start for Southend United but no need to panic just yet
THIS was certainly not the way Southend United would have wanted to start the new League Two season.
A 1-0 defeat to Accrington Stanley at a sun-swept Roots Hall made for a frustrating and futile afternoon.
But, despite Saturday’s disappointment, it remains too early for any doom and gloom, especially as opening day results often conjure up inaccurate perceptions for how the remainder of the campaign might unfold.
Win and the team in question are suddenly tipped to be pushing for promotion... lose and a year of struggle is immediately predicted.
However, Blues’ recent history shows that this is not actually the case.
For back in 2009/10 Southend were unbeaten in their first five games yet still went on to be relegated from League One that season.
And, on the opposite end of the scale, Blues failed to win any of their opening six matches during the 2004/05 campaign, yet still went on to win promotion via the League Two play-offs.
But that is not to say Paul Sturrock’s side will definitely bounce back from losing to Stanley and figure towards the top of the table this term because all does not seem quite right at the club right now.
The team is already having to be patched together despite the season only being two games old and players have been forced in to playing out of position.
At Peterborough last Tuesday, Anthony Straker was pushed on to the left wing and Ryan Leonard in to central midfield.
On Saturday, centre-back Ryan Cresswell came on up front for the final 17 minutes and the obvious additions of a goalkeeper and a new midfielder were also left right until the very last minute.
In fact, between the sticks during pre-season, Southend fielded four trialists and had a loan offer Steve Mildenhall turned down before turning back to Cameron Belford, the keeper Blues had in the first place!
Then, to add to the confusion, they decided to bring in Paul Smith on a two year contract after Belford had made just one appearance.
There was also a similar delay in strengthening the midfield.
Jean-Paul Kalala, Anthony Grant and Lee Sawyer all left Roots Hall at the start of the summer, yet John Spicer was not signed as a replacement until Friday night.
Spicer and Smith have since been described as ‘ring rusty’ by boss Sturrock and they will now have to work on their fitness as well as gelling in to a new team during competitive league matches.
Such a scenario seems slightly bizarre and, following on from a 4-0 defeat to Peterborough in the Capital One Cup and a 6-0 thrashing against Tottenham Hotspur in Blues’ final pre-season friendly all is not well.
Fans may also be feeling the same way as just 4,673 of them attended Saturday's clash for the lowest opening home gate of the season in nine years.
But they could quite easily have been watching a Southend victory had it not been for the fine form of Stanley goalkeeper Ian Dunbavin.
He pulled off a string of fine saves to frustrate Ryan Hall, Michael Timlin and Mark Phillips while Karl Sheppard put away Accrington’s only effort on target to secure their first away win since January.
That made it a miserable first game for Blues who now face two very tough away games at Oxford United and Northampton Town.
And, while not being imperative, it will be important for Southend to get points on board as quickly as they can to build a feel good factor at Roots Hall.