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Southend United 2-0 Northampton Town - Talking Cobblers!

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Brian Jeeves contemplates using earplugs at Roots Hall Stadium.

The beauty of football is that it is a game of opinions. You and I could watch the same match but come up with completely contrasting views. It doesn’t mean either of us know any more or less about the game or indeed the team or players we love, just that we’ve scrutinised proceedings in a different way. Of course, we pay our money at the turnstile and we are all entitled to our opinions...However, sometimes that entitlement is abused, and I can think of no better example of this than the bloke who sits behind me at fortress Roots Hall.

I write this piece, safe in the knowledge that most of the supporters sitting around me agree. Why he bothers going to football is anyone’s guess. Sure, I know Southend United can drive you to the edge, drink and medical help, but when the team are on the crest of a wave you really don’t have the right to act like the proverbial bully behind the big fence!

Let us refer to our subject as “Expert panellist” as clearly he should join the assemblage of former alcoholics, druggies and failed lower league managers who we have occasionally seen spouting their verbal diarrhea on a certain Saturday afternoon TV soccer show. He bellows every thought at ten decibels so everyone can hear him, and believes only his view matters.  Already this season he has made idiotic statements of “Helen Chamberlain” proportions (hardly a favourite amongst Shrimpers fans after her attempt to sabotage our big day at Wembley). Firstly during a pre season friendly with Queen’s Park Rangers he boldly claimed, “This has nil-nil written all over it” when the score was already 1-1. Then after just two minutes of a Capital One Cup tie with Yeovil Town, he spouted “So do I” when Glovers followers harmonically chanted how they wanted to go home because of Southend’s resemblance to a public toilet . Don’t let me stop you mate, sod-off!

Anyway, football. Southend United have made a decent start to their League Two campaign. Victories over Plymouth and Hartlepool see the Shrimpers sitting pretty in the league, and already tongues are wagging about a possible push for promotion. Nevertheless, this afternoon the bar is raised. Northampton Town are amongst the division’s favourites, they arrive on the Essex Riviera in the knowledge it’s been almost five years since they’ve lost here. We get off to a feisty start with a flurry of early yellow cards and a penalty for the Cobblers. Will Atkinson mistimed a challenge on Joe Widdowson, and whistler Mr A. Davies (who was already struggling to control proceedings) pointed to the spot. From our seats at the far end of the East Stand, it was difficult to tell if the decision was accurate or not, queue Expert Panellist “You can’t tackle like that, penalty all day long” he bawls, he must have bionic eyes to have clearly seen it from here. Anyhow, it’s all irrelevant. Southend simply do not concede goals just now. Roy O’Donovan fired his spot kick low to Daniel Bentley’s left, only to see the Shrimpers custodian turn it aside with a wonderful save. “Crap penalty”, EP scoffs. While the rest of the Roots Hall lord their goalie, he simply cannot bring himself to pass any credit to our heroic future England star.

The game continues in a cagey manor. Southend are playing the more fluent football while Northampton are reliant on brute force to stem the flow. Anthony Straker has made a decent start to the campaign, and once again today is involved in some of Southend’s brightest moments. I’m pleased for the lad, he’s an honest footballer who has worked hard on his game following a disappointing first season at Roots Hall, something that’s completely lost on dear old EP. “Go on Straker, make a name for yourself” he sarcastically calls out every time the Shrimpers wide man receives the ball. This was boring the first time, but now, twenty minutes into proceedings, the urge to ram a rolled up pair of socks into his gob has become somewhat over powering. Southend break down the left flank, but Straker’s cross towards Barry Corr is plucked out of the air by Cobblers custodian Matt Duke “Rubbish Straker”! EP once again fires unjust abuse at the Southend man, perhaps he was bullied at school or something.

The robust tackling was always going to produce a flash point. Chris Hackett was late on Straker, resulting in a second yellow card for the Cobblers player. “You can get up now Straker” EP spouts at the prostrate Shrimpers man as a beleaguered Hackett trudged off the field.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, Northampton went desperately close to grabbing the lead. Lee Collins’ header looked destined for the net only for skipper White to avert the danger in the nick of time.

Then a goal, Freddy Eastwood’s strike is deflected into the path of Straker, and to the delight of the home crowd he guides the ball past Duke to give Southend the lead. Well, I say delight of the home crowd, all bar one “He knew about as much about that as I did” EP yells mockingly, don’t give yourself that much credit mate, I think to myself.

From the restart, Southend gain possession but a pass from Straker goes wayward in its search for Eastwood. A predictable response of “If I had a pound for every crap pass you’ve made Straker” roars out from the seat behind me, please mate, for God’s sake buy a season ticket at West Ham!

Southend reach the interval with their lead intact. The crowd warmly applaud the team off the field while EP disappears in the direction of the food bar. If he’s this critical of the our footballers, Christ alone knows what he’ll make of a Roots Hall hotdog! 

After the half time brew, Southend set about cementing a third successive league victory. White picked out Corr with a delicious cross, but the Shrimpers front man couldn’t find the target with his header. Northampton rally, but Northern Ireland under 21’s defender Adam Thompson reads the situation and snubs out and potential threat. “Well played Atkinson” EP shouts, there is a deathly silence as I dare to correct his wayward identification of one of our own players!

As the home side press, EP continues to get the names mixed up, except for poor old Anthony Straker who continues to shoulder the brunt of his blinkered abuse. I wonder how many games it’ll be before this so called supporter gives the bloke a bit of credit, but go back to my original line of thinking, probably bullied at school!

Just after the hour mark, the home side seal the points. We long to see the Freddy Eastwood who once captured the imagination of the Roots Hall crowd. Well, now there are signs that he’s rediscovered the Midas touch as he latched on to White’s path before dispatching a crisp finish beyond Duke to double the lead.

There was still time for Duke to deny both Corr and Atkinson, while Eastwood fired over as Southend threatened to run riot.

A shriek from Mr Davies’ whistle confirms Southend’s best start to a league campaign for umpteen years. The team are looking unified, indeed it is difficult to single out any particular star man when they are all working together much like the components in a highly tuned engine. Nevertheless, you can’t keep everyone happy “We were a bit lucky at times” EP states, however, who to is anyone’s guess. Anyway, Southend troop off the park sitting level at the top of League Two with Oxford United and I’m safe in the knowledge it’ll be three weeks before I have to listen to EP’s ramblings again as the next two games are away. I understand from a fellow supporter that our expert regularly performs in local amateur dramatics. I wonder if our Anthony or for that matter any Real supporter fancies joining me for a season ticket at the Palace Theatre, RUBBISH HAMLET!  

Southend United: Bentley, White, Coker, Laird, Prosser, Eastwood, Corr, Straker, Atkinson, Leonard, Thompson.

Southend United substitutes: P.Smith, Timlin, Reid, Hurst, Cowan, Clifford, Payne.

Northampton Town: Duke, Amankwaah, Widdowson, Carter, Collins, O’Donovan, Hackett, Tozer, Deegan, Emerton, Blythe.

Northampton Town substitutes: Demontagnac, Platt, Morris, Snedker, Hooper, Dias, Tony.

Attendance: 5,510