As I Seen It - Southend (a)

ALAN ESSEX says "The Only Way Is Essex"  -  well he would, wouldn't he!

Southend 1  Pools 0 
League Two, 
Roots Hall, 
15th October, 2014

Now that’s strange, I’m sure Southend had been planning to move away from Roots Hall for several years now, but here they were still playing at their old ground surrounded by residential properties in the same place as ever.

Of course if they ever move a certain quaintness and charm will be lost forever and they would possibly suffer a period of decline where they try and balance financing the new ground with paying players. This is a club who up until last year had received 5 winding up orders in 4 years.

Southend’s new ground is planned to be in partnership with Sainsbury’s. That’s Sainsbury’s whose recent financial results show a pre-tax loss of £290m for the first half of its financial year. As a result Sainsbury’s have stated they will reappraise whether to go ahead with future developments, which includes 40 new shops (Graham Ruddick, Daily Telegraph, November 13th 2014). I suppose it’s possible that the new Southend / Sainsbury’s proposal may be one of them. Still that’s not our worry.

More pressing a concern for Pools is our current league position and the fast fading chances of avoiding the Conference.

The expectations leading up to the game were a bit more positive than the reality that followed. Southend had lost the previous week at home to Chester, 14th in the Conference and had not won in their previous 4 home games. Pools had just beaten a Premiership side (ok, ok, East Thurrock, 14th in the Ryman Premier League, two leagues below the Conference). I hope you’re all keeping up; we’ll need to know all of this guff soon!

Pools line up had Wyke and Harrison returning after missing the cup tie plus Matt Crooks added to the starting line up. Dropping out were Jones, Richards and Harewood. Scott Fenwick was on the bench for the first time.
The Southend mascot, ‘Sammy the Shrimp’

As you’d expect, Southend started the brighter and Worrall, playing on the left wing, was terrifying our defence. The Little and Large pairing of Payne and Corr in the centre and support in midfield from Timlin all looked like causing problems for our defence. Fortunately the end results were shots straight at Flinders. Worryingly for Pools clearances by our 2 centre backs Collins and Harrison were woeful with simple short passes going to the opposition in dangerous areas. I can understand why defenders don’t just hoof the ball upfield but it would have been the safest option if they cannot pass or play the ball out comfortably, which clearly on this display neither could.

For a ten minute spell midway through the first half Pools started to look like a half decent side, whether this was Southend tiring or a gradual gaining of confidence, I’m not sure but things looked more promising. Featherstone who I thought along with Wyke had been anonymous up until now had a shot comfortably saved and Franks, buoyed by his 2 goals against ‘Premiership’ opposition was looking sharper than the last couple of times I’d seen him and had a good shot just over the bar.

Southend then came back into the game and shots over and at Flinders plus one clearance from Duckworth on the line from a cross come shot didn’t bother the score.

The second half began where the first had left off with Southend threatening and my 2 ‘men of the match’ Worrall and Timlin both having shots over the bar and saved respectively. We’re not bottom for nothing I’m afraid, with careless passes and easily-lost possession going to the opposition far too often. Walker, who has undoubted skill, was guilty of this and on one occasion losing the ball in his own half nearly resulted in a goal for Southend. Another instance saw Featherstone easily losing the ball to Worrall, on the right this time, running half the length of the pitch unchallenged to put the ball comfortably past Flinders after 65 minutes. Our 2 centre backs whilst doing a good job defending continued to misplace passes and try to play the ball away when neither was capable.

Pools did seem to sense the urgency of the situation at this point and Wyke had a shot on target well saved by Bentley in the Southend goal. Further good chances from Franks twice and Walker all went just wide of the keeper's right-hand post. Pools made substitutions with Richards coming on for Crooks and Fenwick for Schmeltz, both in the 56th minute, the formation changing to 4-4-2. Harewood replaced Wyke with 10 minutes left. Worrall nearly got his and Southend’s second but shot wide. One shot from Southend went over the 2 tier stand behind the goal and hit the block of flats some way behind – quite a feat I’d say.

For the final 10 minutes Pool’s had little attacki"Are these players for the future? ...Maybe they will find our level and maybe we will find theirs!"ng possession and Southend comfortably held on for their win.

An improved performance compared with the recent defeat at Cambridge but the same outcome. Pools man of the match for me was Michael Duckworth by miles.

Of the new players Schmeltz, like many new arrivals over the years at Pools showed enthusiasm but little in the way of constructive contribution. His recent record shows that he was released by Sparta Rotterdam (second tier of Dutch football) despite having a year left on his contract. He then signed for SC Veendam but became a free agent when they went into bankruptcy. He then signed a 2 year deal with Oldham but was released after 7 months having been on loan at Shrewsbury for the last month.

Nicky Featherstone is much smaller than I had imagined but lacked the tigerish impetuosity of say a Roy Hogan and took a long time to get into the game; when he did he gave away the goal. Featherstone’s recent record shows him playing for another H.U.F.C., Hereford United, during the 2011 / 12 season, the season they were relegated to the Conference. He then played at Walsall for 2 seasons making 55 appearances before signing for Scunthorpe on non-contract terms and has recently been playing for Harrogate Town in the Conference North.

Scott Fenwick too took a long time to get into the game but showed a few good touches later on – of course, a few good touches are not enough for us. Fenwick has been playing for Dunstan UTS and prior to that Durham City both Northern League, Division 1.

Are these players for the future? Well, they’ve all been dropped in the deep end straight away and on the performance I’ve seen are lacking at this level. Maybe they will find our level and maybe we will find theirs!

Players who are out of contract or from a lower league are probably all we can attract now and are not what we need to get us away from the foot of the division.

I’ve seen Paul Murray’s post match review and can’t disagree with a word of what he says. In all honesty I feel sorry for him as on recent showings he just hasn’t got the resources available to play with the determination he wants and in fact displayed when he was playing.

Time is running out and we are being cut further adrift from the pack. Our goal difference is twice as bad as the team above us (Tranmere), confidence is understandably at rock bottom, the players we’re bringing in are from non league and lack the fitness and skills required to get us out of this bother and the senior players seem to have given up and are looking at alternative careers. I was disappointed with Sam Collins’ performance as I’ve always thought he was a slow but solid rock (not that I’ve ever seen a fast rock) that had a calming influence but he looked lacking in motivation – my guess is that he’s dispirited in not being given longer to prove himself as the manager, especially as the replacement has no more experience and has fared no better. Collins’ league record – played 3 won 1 lost 2; Murray’s record played 3 drawn 1 lost 2.

And finally a note for the Ditchburn Poolie. The referee, Patrick Miller was very good – I couldn’t fault one decision. He consulted with his assistants when required and appeared to follow their advice. See how bad it’s become - I’m now writing about and complimenting match officials!!!