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Blue tinted optimist
Oct 28, 2003
Cloud cuckoo land

This game was always going to be a case of whether the huge morale boost that Tuesdays win gave us would counter the sheer mental and physical fatigue that the players must have suffered after the Man Utd game.

The Blues made 3 changes, all enforced; the injured Hunt and Hooper were replaced by Francis and Harrold respectively with Luke Guttridge in for the suspended Kevin Maher.

Prestons forwards were always going to be a handful and Nugent showed plenty of early promise and pace and looked much quicker than either Rooney or Ronaldo.  He nearly opened the scoring with a sublime lob from 20 yards with Flahavan off his line but the ball dropped over the bar.

Moments later he won this writers respect when he stayed on his feet when challenged in the box by Francis in what turned out to be an excellent tackle but lost it soon after when he dived to get Prior booked with a blatant dive when he realised the ball was going out of play.

Guttridge obviously hadn't got used to the fact that Maher was not playing and tried to pass the ball to him - or that's what you'd think judging by the number of passes he put into the crowd!  In truth, Southend were being overrun but settled after about 15 minutes and started to play the better football.  Freddy had a shot that visiting keeper Carlo Nash could only palm into Harrolds path, but the youngster seemed slow to react and a defender blocked his effort towards the empty net.  In a concerted spell of pressure, Eastwood rattled the bar with a thunderbolt that had Nash well beaten and Clarke put a free header wide from close range.  The Preston threat was quelled, although their skipper Alexander hit a long range effort that forced Flahavan into a save that equalled if not bettered any made against Ronaldo in the week.

Southend managed to negotiate the five minutes either side of the break without conceding and then went on the offensive again.  The Preston fans were silent throughout as Southend turned up the pressure but the ball would not fall kindly.  Harrold intelligently set Sodje up but his volley from 15 yards flew high over the bar.  From a scramble the ball fell to Sodje again in the box 10 yards out but his mish!t shot was cleared off the line, and from the resultant melee Nash appeared to carry the ball over the line but the ref blew for a foul on the keeper.

At this stage the previously impressive Nugent was fading and Preston made some strong substitutions by bringing on Ormerod and Agyemang.  But Blues continued to press and Guttridge and Clarke were now getting the better of their midfield counterparts.   Gower had a shot deflected inches wide and another Sodje effort - a header this time - missed the target.

As the game started to peter out Preston nearle nicked the points with a good move and an effort which went narrowly wide of Flahavans right hand post but in all honesty Southend did not deserve to lose this match and got a well earned point against one of the divisions top sides.

Perhaps the biggest plus was the clean sheet and now we need to build on this to turn draws into victories so that we can climb off the bottom of this division  The next 2 matches- at home to Plymouth and away to Col******r, who look to be stumbling a bit, present a great opportunity to collect back to back wins.  Realistically, if we don't start winning soon, we will be cut adrift at the bottom.

Ratings -

Flahavan - 7 - coped with everything and made a superb save in the first half.

Francis - 8 - The best display by him for us yet.  Looked much more comfortable with JCR in front of him.
Hammell - 8 - Followed on from his performance against Man Utd and defended well.  Good corner delivery too although a couple of free kicks weren't up to scratch.
Sodje - 8.5 - MOM - How we've missed him!  Man of the match for the second time in a week and I pray he stays injury free.
Prior - 7 - Shaky start but solid and his aerial dominance helped no end.

Gower - 7 - Another good showing and unlucky not to score late on.
Clarke - 6.5 - Still the weakest link but much better than previous performances given that he is out of position. Looked more comfortable alongside Guttridge.
Guttridge - 7 - Very poor first 20 minutes but then settled and the second half was much improved.  Signs of the old Gutts were evident!
Campbell-Ryce - 7 - Two games in the week proved too much and he tired but his defensive game has been the main difference in us conceding 3 goals or not as he picks up loose balls that otherwise go to the opposition who punish us.

Eastwood - 7 - Preston were terrified of him and he was unlucky with two efforts.  Looked absolutely knackered at the end.
Harrold - 7 - Did pretty well, some good lay offs but in my view lacks the predatory streak to be a top goalscorer.

Subs -

Cole - 6 - Came on for JCR and good to see him back but I don't recall him using his pace very much

Ref - Mr Deadman - 6 - Played good advantage but there were some strange decisions at times, including a booking for Sodje who did nothing apart from almost get head butted by Dichio.  If Sodje had gone down clutching his face Dichio would have walked and Sodje would have been branded a cheat.  Because he stood there he gets booked.  Madness.

Crowd - 9 - Kept the chanting up all game but to be fair we weren't losing so it was a lot easier.