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fbm

Blue tinted optimist
Joined
Oct 28, 2003
Messages
8,462
Location
Cloud cuckoo land
LAST GASP GOWER MAKES A POINT

Mark Gower was the stoppage time hero as he lashed home the 6th and equalising goal of a pulsating thriller under the lights at Roots Hall.

This is a game that will live long in the memory of the 11000-plus fans who were fortunate enough to witness the 100 mph football dished up by both teams.  Norwich set out their stall early and played some decent keep ball in the opening stages as Southend struggled to settle.  Too often passes were rushed or played long and it was the visitors who had all the early possession.

But after 9 minutes, a long ball from Barrett over the top found top scorer Freddy Eastwood in space and a sublime first touch lifted the ball over the defenders head to give himself a clear shot at goal 15 yards out.  Freddy rarely misses those and this was no exception.  1-0.

The packed Norwich contingent was stunned into silence as Southend worked hard to stop the visitors playing football and for 25 minutes it worked.  Despite lots of possession, Norwich just could not find a way through and resorted to long range efforts that didn't trouble Flahavan.

Then after 36 minutes, Southend entered a period of play that will hopefully never be repeated at this level.  Guttridge gave the ball away and ball watched as his midfield counterpart set up an attack.  The ball was switched to wide on the right, and a deep cross eluded everyone except the onrushing Earnshaw, who put the ball in at the second attempt following a fine save by Darryl.

Four minutes later Norwich pulled Blues apart with a superb move featuring some great one touch football.  As the ball came into the Southend box, there seemed 2 or 3 opportunities to clear the ball but the penalty area resembled a bagatelle board as the ball again fell to Earnshaw who put the Canaries 2-1 ahead.

At this point Southend's play was sloppy and was by far the worst quality that has been dished up for some time.  Gower, Guttridge, Clarke and Campbell-Ryce were not on their game with several players failing to do the simple things and then arguing with each other.  Freddy's opener had been our only shot of the match and one could only hope that a half time tongue lashing from Tilly would galvanise the team into action.

Unfortunately, any such hopes were dashed within 2 minutes of the restart as a poor lay off by Freddy gifted possession to Norwich who all too easily sliced through the defence to set up a cross for Etuhu to head in from close range.   At 3-1 to be honest, most people thought it was “game over”.  Southend and Norwich looked 2 divisions apart, with the rapid rise up the divisions looking finally to have caught up with us.  It seemed a case of how many the Norfolk outfit would win by.

I had feared the worst at half time and had received a text from my friend in the South Upper who predicted 3-3.  At this point I said we’d do well to keep them at 3 and he simply replied that I should keep the faith and he reaffirmed his 3-3 prediction.  What a good call that turned out to be.

After two and a half seasons of Southend having most things go their way, this situation would provide Steve Tilson with his greatest test so far.  He has faced criticism from various quarters concerning the timing of his substitutions in the past and with several Blues players not firing on all cylinders, surely a substitution needed to be made sooner rather than later.

Tilly surprised everyone again.  With 64 minutes gone, he made not one, not two but three changes.  Off came the woeful Guttridge, the knackered Campbell-Ryce and the ineffective Paynter, to be replaced by Hunt, Hooper and Harrold respectively.

Immediately the awkward Harrold posed the Norwich defence problems and won a corner.  There was an effective 4th substitution as the crowd found their voice and really started to lift the players.  The Roots Hall Roar returned with a vengeance as all sides of the ground raised the roof and the spirits of the home side.

The visiting fans were silenced and nervous as Blues began to dominate.  Clarke headed over from a corner and Maher had a rasping drive tipped over by the keeper.  Then, Hooper won a free kick on the edge of the box.  A perfect training ground routine saw Freddy dummy to shoot and Hammell strode up instead to fire the ball into the top right hand corner.  2-3.

With 20 minutes left there seemed every chance that an equaliser would come.  Shots rained in on the Norwich goal, with one effort being blocked by the arms of a defender but claims for a penalty were waved aside.  The visitors had nothing left to offer as Southend turned the screw but despite their possession and dominance, the equaliser seemed elusive.

As 3 minutes of injury time arrived, Worthington made a substitution and the Canaries made every effort to slow the game down.  Then, with a minute left, Earnshaw found himself clear in the box but lifted the ball over the bar.

That miss proved costly as Southend mounted one last attack.  Freddy received the ball wide and fired a shot goalwards.  The keeper pushed the ball  out and Gower stopped it, turned and rifled home from 6 yards to raise the roof yet again and seal a monumentous comeback.  The only downside was the fact that he took his shirt off and received a booking as a result.  What an act of stupidity and if he receives a ban later on then that will come back to haunt him.  I see Tilly has said in a post match interview that if he does it again he will be fined 2 weeks wages.

At the final whistle it felt like a win, and the Norwich fans will have felt as though they have been beaten.  The confidence the players can take from that second half performance should lift them ahead of the tough trip the West Brom on Saturday even though there is still plainly work to do.  But it does show that we have the strength of character to live with the standard in this division.

Ratings:


Flahavan – 7 – Beaten three times and was guilty of a poor attempted clearance during the scramble which preceded their second goal.  However, some of his distribution was excellent and he wasn’t afraid to release the ball quickly, which has been a criticism in the past.

Francis – 8 – His best game for me yet even though a rare lapse let Earnshaw in late on for what would have been a winning 4th goal.
Clarke – 6 – Not on song.  Showed definite league 2 class and his distribution was very poor at times.
Barrett – 8 – Coped well with Ehutu and his confidence grows every game.  Is coping better than I thought he would.
Hammell – 8.5 – MOM.  Superb free kick for the second goal, delivery from free kicks and corners posed problems almost every time and his defensive duties were much improved from Saturday.

Gower – 6.5 – Nowhere near as creative tonight although he did improve as the game went on and of course, got the equaliser.  Also got stupidly booked for removing his shirt and whilst I think it’s a stupid rule, he should know better.  After all, it’s not the first time.
Maher – 8 – Superb game from the skipper. Broke up attacks and was always making himself available.
Guttridge – 4 – Oh dear.  Needs a spell on the bench.  Ran the show at Leicester but tonight was a definite liability.  Kept giving the ball away.
Campbell-Ryce – 6 – Again, good work rate but tired early and was far too predictable.

Eastwood – 7 – Great opener, and posed Norwich some problems.  Seemed more willing to do the simple things which I think is important for him at the moment.
Paynter – 6 – Worked hard but not very effective.  Still hasn’t had a shot on goal.

Subs –

Hunt – 8 – Really shored up the midfield and did the simple things very well.  Should be given the chance to start on Saturday alongside Maher.
Hooper – 7 – Showed some good touches and posed Norwich some problems.
Harrold – 7 – Awkward to play against, very quick and I can quite see why Tilly brought him here.  Would like to see him start alongside Eastwood.

The Ref – Mr Ulriah Rennie- 7 – A good performance and he let the game flow very well, which is something I think is crucial and tonight it enabled the game to be played at breakneck pace.

The Crowd – 10.  What fantastic atmosphere and support.  I really believe we created the 3rd goal.
 
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