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Uncle Leo

This cook is an anti-semite
Nov 19, 2003
NY Parks Dept

What a difference a week makes. Morale and spirit hit a new low after last Saturday's abject performance against a very ordinary Wolves side. The local press ran a feature through the week revolving around the supporters views on what had gone wrong.

Some - more than most had expected I guess - were calling for the resignation of the management. The Chairmans motives and integrity were also called into question. That prompted an official statement by Ron Martin offering to meet one fan in particular in order to "educate" him.

The players had a "clear the air" discussion where frank views were exchanged. The party line was that it had been a good and worthwhile exercise, and that team spirit had never been better. Spencer Prior was featured on National Radio appealing for the fans to get behind the club during matches from the word go and maybe the club could get out of this mess.

Fan was pitted against fan in various online message board threads concerning the state of the club and what should be done. After all, if you go 17 games without a win then something isn't quite right. Maybe this was what was required. Although unpleasant, it certainly would have done no harm for the club to know that all was not rosy and that the fans would simply not settle for the fact that we got into the Championship. They wanted to stay there.

Well, this was certainly a make or break week. At other clubs such shenannigins could have led to a rift between the players, the resignation or sacking of the management team and who knows what else. After all, Southampton, with 4 straight wins and pushing for promotion, were going to be the latest visitors to Roots Hall for what was now perceived by the rest of the division as an easy 3 points, or, at least, a game that they would not lose.

But we always knew that we would beat Southampton as the name begins with 'S' and they play in Red and White stripes. It doesn't matter what else went on; this was one match we would win.

But seriously, in my pre-match discussions with my friends I was confident of one thing and one thing only; the game would not be boring. We would either put in a seasons best performance and win, or Southampton would literally take us to pieces. That side of it was almost guaranteed. When I saw the Southampton team line up for kick off I must confess that I feared the latter.

Neither team got off to a flyer although both teams showed flashes of quality. Southend, however, seemes to have more trouble in keeping the ball on the pitch as quick passes rarely found their intended destination and more often than not found touch. Simon Francis seemed to be the worst offender, but all players should be applauded for trying to make something happen. When confidence is low, it is the easiest thing in the world to shrink from responsibility and invention and take the easy option so that the player stands less chance of doing something wrong. In my view, this has been evident recently and no more so than last week. I am therefore prepared to forgive the odd wall pass or ambitious through ball that doesn't come off, because this is a necessary process that we must go through if we are to come out of this slump in a positive manner. The players must try ambitious things in order to make things happen; average mediocrity will win us few points and not much else either.

Southampton were strong, quick and skilful, yet failed to really test Flahavan although a misplaced cross did fortunately rebound off the crossbar.

For their apparent early superiority though, it was Southend who carved out the best chances. Bradbury had an effort cleared off the line, and Freddy blasted over from inside the box.

Then, midway through the opening period, the visitors momentarily went to sleep. They obviously were unaware of Freddys strengths as they allowed him to receive the ball 30 yards out on the left and then cut in towards goal. He took the ball across in his customary style and lashed home from 25 yards. Shock! Horror! Southend not only hit the net for the first time in over 400 minutes but Freddy scores from open play! Blues were 1-0 up!

But would it last?

Initial impressions were that it would not. Within a minute, a visiting defender carried the ball the length of the pitch before seeting up Bradley Wright-Phillips for what would surely have been the equaliser. Just as he was about to pull the trigger, 15 yards out and with only Flahavan to beat, the most impeccably timed tackle was made by Francis to dispossess the striker. At that moment all the previous poor passes were forgotten as that single moment, which happened so soon after our goal, was almost worth a 2 goal lead.

The pace of the game quickened. Surely Southend could not maintain this high tempo. But the goal seemed to instil a new confidence and Blues not only matched but actually began to better their opponents. McCormack and Hammell in particular defended as if their lives depended on it. Tackles were flying in left right and centre and Southend were presenting a steely side to their game that had previously been absent in this current campaign. The crowd, recognising the extra effort were lapping it up and encouraging at every opportunity.

The second half saw Southend dominate their opponents during the early stages and a neutral would have been forgiven for not knowing which side was bottom of the league. Burley made 2 early substitutions but to no effect. Then they started to press and the visiting crowd found their voice. Southampton had a goal disallowed and then forced a succession of corners. From one, Flahavan made a fantastic save and then combined with 2 defenders to keep out the rebound. From the clearance, Blues swept forward, Gower found Freddy who in turn set up McCormack 20 yards out and he rifled a sweet shot into the far corner to double the lead.

Prior immediately ran back towards Flahavan offering congratulations and was clearly saying "You created that with the save". How true that was.

These days a 2 goal cushion is unheard of and as the visitors pushed forward they left gaps at the back. Freddy unselfishly set up Bradbury 15 yards out and with just the keeper to beat, but he shot straight at him. Bradbury returned the compliment but this time freddy was off target. We were left to wonder whether those missed chances would be rued but when Wright-Phillips hit the post, it was almost certainly going to be our day.

With 3 minutes to go JCR was subbed for Clarke whilst Southampton were waiting to take a throw in. From the resultant throw they equalised as Rasiak hooked home from close range to set up a nervous last few minutes, but fortunately Blues held firm to secure only their 3rd win of the season.

If there is a criticism it is that for the last 10 minutes, Lewis Hunt was clearly out on his feet. Why Tilly didn't sub him is anyone's guess, especially during injury time. But now is not the time for negativity. Southend showed today that by working together and for each other, tyhey can overcome the better sides in this league. The players need to look at themselves and what they have achieved today, and then ask whether they really have put in 100% over the previous weeks. I would say that they haven't.

All this will count for nothing if we go to Luton and get beaten. Another TV performance like the last one will do nicely thank you.


Flahavan - 8 - A couple of unusually suspect clearances but made a superb save at 1-0 to keep us in it.

Francis - 7 - Off the pace early on but 'that' tackle gave him confidence and he improved
Prior - 8 - Midweek rallying call did the trick and he led by example
Sodje - 8 - The defensive problems seem to have diminished since he returned. He is almost irreplaceable for us.
Hammell - 7 - Very determined defending and worked extremely hard.

Campbell-Ryce - 7 - Non stop work rate, left to a deserved standing ovation and nearly scored late on when he hit the bar with a cheeky attempt from an acute angle
Hunt - 7 - Did the very best he could not in his natural position although he was pushed out wide right after Clarke came on and frankly was a liability for the last few minutes. Should have been subbed as he was clearly knackered.
McCormack - MOM - 9 - All action performance reminiscent of Peter Butler at his best (for those who remember him). Capped it off with a wonderful goal.
Gower - 8 - Best game of recent times and created plenty.

Eastwood - 8 - Answered his critics in the best way possible. Full of running and a constant threat.
Bradbury - 7 - Great hold up play but if only he could be more clinical. Should have had a hat trick today really.

Sub - Clarke - 6 - Only on for 3 minutes plus injury timae and I can't recall him touching the ball.

Ref - Mr Webster - 6 - Generally sound, played advantage extremely well which lets the game flow.

The Crowd - 9 - Really played their part, kept encouraging all the way through. We need to do this every game now. There is no point in going along with no belief. Although unlikely, we can mathemtaically get ourselves out of this mess and until it is impossible we must scrap for every point. It is no good expecting the players to do it all if we are struck down by apathy and depression.

Bring on Luton!