Southend United 1-0 Plymouth Argyle - All smiles (for now) by the Seaside
By Brian Jeeves
Brian Jeeves basking in the glory before the bubble bursts at Roots Hall.
We Shrimpers are a notoriously fickle miserable and grumpy lot, and to be honest we have every reason to be. Most recently, Southend United have been synonymous with financial hardship off the pitch paired with erratic displays on it. Successive relegations saw former Scotland international Paul Sturrock installed as manager. Despite “Luggy” taking the team within a whisker of promotion and indeed an appearance at Wembley in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, Phil Brown, a manager with Premiership experience, however, who is yet to guide the team to a home victory under his leadership, replaced him in the Roots Hall hot seat. I know what you’re thinking, an appearance at Wembley, supporters of some clubs would give their right arm for some of that. However, we are Southend fans; let me paint you a little picture. If a new striker hasn’t filled the onion bag inside ten minutes of his debut, the regular stand dwellers label him a failure, as Chaz and Dave once harmoniously bellowed out “Gertcha”!
Nevertheless, today is the first day of the new Football season and I’m in a joyous mood. It’s like my Birthday and Christmas all rolled into one. I pull up at Roots Hall with a fist full of optimism and hope. Despite, several disjointed pre season performances against the likes of Great Wakering, Braintree and Chelmsford, Southend have taken us by surprise this past week. Phil Brown has brought in several decent signings and friendly matches with Queens Park Rangers and a young West Ham team have produced some eye-catching displays. Yes, I’m determined to enjoy the final few hours of blind faith before reality kicks in, I’m feeling good, as the Black Knight in Monty Pythons Holy Grail said “I’m (or should that be we’re) invincible!”
Anyway, the scene is set and it’s perfect. The old ground is bathed in sunshine, well, apart from the cold and dreary West Stand (some might say like its inhabitance), I’m sporting my new replica shirt and I’m joined by an notable crowd of more than 7,000, including an impressive following from Plymouth. This is for real now; we are all in the “buoyancy zone”. The lively crowd exchange songs, not yet down trodden by the reality check brought about by the agony of five successive defeats.
Anyway, whistler Rob Lewis gets us underway, and it soon becomes apparent that Southend are the more fluent side. Plymouth look somewhat disjointed as the home team move the ball around confidently. When not in possession, the Shrimpers charges show energy and commitment, getting in the visitors faces and generally making sure they have no room to play. After fifteen minutes, all the hard work paid off. Marc Laird charged into the Plymouth penalty area only to see his strike saved by Luke McCormick, but the Argyle keeper and his back line could do little as the ball fell to Barry Corr. The big Irishman steadied himself before poking the ball into the back of the net. Roots Hall erupts.
The goal opens up the game. Plymouth started to find some space, and indeed created a couple of chances. Firstly, the wonderfully named Connor Hourihane found Andre Blackman, but the Argyle man was forced up a blind alley, then Romauld Boco crossed for Ruben Reid only for the striker to skew his effort well wide.
Although Southend were going about their business with vigour, there was little in the way of clear goal scoring opportunities. In fact, it was Plymouth who had the best chance finding the net. Laird brought down Blackman only for Paul Wotton to fire the resulting free kick tamely at Shrimpers custodian Daniel Bentley.
After the break, Southend stepped up the tempo. Anthony Straker saw his cross hacked clear while Freddy Eastwood surged down the left before picking out Ryan Leonard, only for the former Plymouth mans shot to be charged down.
The Shrimpers continued to press, Will Atkinson’s shot deflected wide, then Eastwood’s vicious free-kick was awkwardly turned aside by McCormack.
Southend should have been out of sight. Argyle gave them a timely reminder that they were still in it when Durrell Berry’s cross was scrambled clear by Mark Phillips. But it was the home side who continued to have the lion’s share in the way of goal attempts. Lairds placed the ball low to McCormick’s left only for the glovesman to make a brilliant save, and then the otherwise excellent Straker should have done better, firing over from close range.
Until now, Plymouth’s team performance clearly didn’t possess the same passion of 1,200 voyagers who had vocally backed them. Nonetheless, sensing they could still salvage something from the game, they started to give Southend some anxious moments. Bentley was forced to slice clear Phillips Backpass then the young goalkeeper impressively kept out Hourihane’s low drive showing why Phil Brown tipped him one day to play for England.
Despite they late rally, Southend held on for a deserved victory. The team left the field to a thundering ovation from the approving Roots Hall throng.
I make my way out of Roots Hall amidst a multitude of smiles and content. The team have played well, three points are in the bag and I’ve got fish ‘n’ chips for tea, I’m going to the pub to enjoy a few beers tonight before the proverbial knee in the knackers otherwise known as “the rest of the season” kicks in. We have Hartlepool United away next week, and they’re bottom of the table, easy, things can’t get any better...however, the wife was listening to a programme on BBC Radio 4 the other day. Apparently, one day in the future the Sun is going to expand, explode, and engulfing our planet thus killing off all life on earth...depressing, isn’t it. Perhaps I’ll just stay in and have an early night, typical grouchy Shrimper, HUMBUG!
Southend United: Bentley, White, Phillips, Prosser, Coker, Atkinson, Leonard, Laird, Straker, Eastwood (Reid 68), Corr (Clifford 86)
Southend United substitutes: Smith, Timlin, Reid, Clifford, Bennett, Njie, Payne.
Plymouth Argyle: McCormick, Berry, Hourihane, Alessandra, Boco, Reid (Harvey 71), Morgan, Blizzard (Young 76), Wotton (Richards 45), Nelson, Blackman
Plymouth Argyle substitutes: Cole, Harvey, Richards, Vassell, Purrington, Young, Lane.
Next Up: Capital One Cup 1st Round – Southend United v Yeovil Town – Tuesday 6th August 7:45pm.