ITEN Match Preview: Southend (A)
It’s one down, two to go in a busy week for Rovers that continues down in Essex this Tuesday evening.
A 2-0 win over Bristol Rovers moved Darren Moore’s side up to 9th in the table and banished the black cloud that rolled in from two defeats in a row prior. Rovers have now played nine of the top twelve sides in the division and should be grateful for a run of games largely against sides lower down the table. It doesn’t get much lower than Southend, stranded in 22nd place with only one win to their name and already eight points from safety.
Time management key for Moore
The manager has been reluctant to utilise his full complement of substitutes in many recent games but, perhaps with this game in mind, made three changes on Saturday with the game all but won. The withdrawal of 38-year-old James Coppinger came as no surprise, so it will be hoped that the side’s main creative outlet feels up to starting at Roots Hall. We badly miss his influence when he isn’t in the starting XI and Moore will be fully aware of how important he is.
It would appear there are no fresh injury worries, with Niall Ennis also brought off early against Bristol Rovers as he makes his comeback from a hamstring injury. Genuine alternatives on the bench are in short supply, with only Kwame Thomas able to deputise and Alfie May the next in line for either Ennis’ position or any of the three midfield slots behind Ennis on the field. With another tough away trip to Tranmere on the horizon next weekend, a couple of changes may be necessary to keep the squad feeling fresh enough.
Rudderless Southend all at sea
The Shrimpers are in a terrible situation at present, amassing only five points from their first thirteen League One games and without a manager now since Kevin Bond resigned on 6th September, some six weeks ago. A protracted move to appoint Swedish legend Henrik Larsson ultimately fell through and it now appears that Sol Campbell will take on the role, but he will not be in place in time to take charge against Rovers.
Southend have only won one game all season, a 1-0 victory at Milton Keynes last month, and since then have been beaten by Accrington, Gillingham and Wimbledon; all sides who are in the bottom section of the division themselves. Caretaker boss Gary Waddock has been unable to galvanise the side and a repeat of last season’s heroics to survive relegation seem unlikely even at this relatively early stage in the campaign.
Defensively, there has been little consistency in this side and that has shown on the scoreboards with 33 goals shipped in just 13 league games, comfortably the most in the division. However, a spirited performance at Tranmere on Friday was unfortunate to only yield one point and Tom Hopper marked his first start in a year with a goal, having overcome a serious knee injury. Waddock should also have Harry Lennon back fit to start, although the status of keeper Mark Oxley is unknown after he had to pull out just before the game at Prenton Park.
Southend have won just one of the last 15 meetings between the sides going back to 1998, with Rovers winning 11 of those clashes stretching back to an FA Cup tie in which future manager Dave Penney scored the winner in an upset when Rovers were in the Conference.
Ironically, that sole Shrimpers win came in the 2007/08 season, when Steve Tilson’s side won 3-2 at Roots Hall before seeing their season ended at the hands of James Coppinger in a famous 5-1 Play Off victory that sent Sean O’Driscoll’s team to their Wembley destiny against Leeds United.
Last season saw Grant McCann’s side do the double over Southend, with a 3-2 win away in his first game in charge on the opening day bettered by a comprehensive 3-0 victory at the Keepmoat Stadium in February. John Marquis and Mallik Wilks scored in both of those games, with the third goal in the two games added by Tommy Rowe and Herbie Kane respectively.