Southend United 0-1 Morecambe - Life in League 2
There is no such thing as a “nothing” game - Life in League 2
The final Saturday of the regular npower League 2 season pitched 11th placed Southend against a Morecambe side five places lower. The fixture is the deadest of dead rubbers with only pride and perhaps a contract for next season at stake.
The final weeks of the campaign have been tough to swallow for the Roots Hall faithful. A season that once promised so much has faded into a sea of nothingness. The highlight, a trip to Wembley for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final, was soon forgotten as the team’s poor second half to the season turned positively awful.
As I enter the main entrance to pick up today’s team sheet, long standing clubman Ray Davy hands me a copy of the programme from the Shrimpers 3-2 triumph over Tottenham Hotspur, Gascoigne, Lineker and all, way back in 1989. I comment that days like that are few and far between for those of us embroiled in a love affair with Southend United, but as I glimpse through the aging match day magazine, hope, as ever, springs eternal.
Before the kick-off, Southend’s hugely dependable defender Sean Clohessy received the supporter’s player of the year award. Clohessy is out of contract in the summer, fans fear this will be his final appearance in a blue shirt with a host of parties reported to be interested in securing his signature.
Despite a relatively healthy turnout of just over five thousand, the atmosphere around “The Theatre of Shrimps” is a far cry from that dramatic night when a Wembley berth was secured in dramatic circumstances against local rivals Leyton Orient. Since that passion filled night, Southend have tasted victory only three times in fourteen matches, all away from Roots Hall. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many are predicting that today will produce another desperate afternoon on the Essex Riviera.
Early exchanges are somewhat “agricultural” and untidy, with both teams seemingly lost for ideas and happy simply to clear their lines. Southend enjoy slightly the better of possession, but after a quarter of an hour, neither side has created any kind of clear opportunity. Nevertheless, the home side look determined to finish the season on a high, soon defender Ryan Cresswell has a headed effort deflected over while leading marksman Gavin Tomlin has an attempt scrambled off the line.
Tomlin looks in the mood today, after dancing into the visitors box, he forces Morecambe custodian Barry Roche into an excellent one-handed save, then striker Barry Corr fires over after sterling work from chief creator Kevan Hurst. Although the home side have the “bit between their teeth”, Corr’s wayward effort is met by a collective groan from the crowd. It is an ugly sound that I’ve become accustomed too after almost forty years of following Southend.
After half an hour, Morecambe finally register an attempt somewhere in the direction of the home sides goal, but the ironic jeers as Andrew Fleming’s strike trickled aimlessly wide should have prepared us for what was to follow, after all, this is Southend United we’re talking about, nothing should surprise a Roots Hall regular! Clohessy slips, Fleming pounces, and Southend goalkeeper Paul Smith has to perform his first meaningful task of the afternoon, fishing the ball out of the Shrimpers net!
At this stage, I could simply throw my head into my hands and scream “I don’t believe it” but I do, this has become a regular occurrence of late, and believe it or not, over the years I have seen a lot worse! As the half draws to a close, the home side look jaded. Passes are going astray and confidence appears to have hit rock bottom. The team trudge off at the interval to a mini chorus of boos and general discontent from the stands. In fairness, it’s hardly a crescendo, a sign that at least for this season, the home crowd are almost beyond caring.
At the start of the second period, the Southend support turns its frustrations on referee Rob Lewis. The whistler has made several baffling decisions, but no more than any other official I’ve seen this season. At least the crowd’s fickle finger of blame is now pointing elsewhere, offering the players some respite, however brief!
Southend’s efforts have become sporadic. Blues have seen plenty of the ball, but in the final third they turn into the proverbial “rabbit in the headlights”. Many of us are resigned that once again, this is not going to be our afternoon.
The match has become dull and bogged down in midfield, the handful of jovial Morecambe fans bring a smile to my face by chanting “ole’” as their charges produce a series of crisp passes that are completely out of context with the previous seventy minutes served up. They follow this up with a chorus of “Bring me sunshine”, they typify supporters in this particular division, often travelling more in hope than expectation, but above all, humorous and bubbling with characters.
As the match, and indeed the season enters its final fifteen minutes, Morecambe substitute Chris Holroyd finally produces an effort of note, forcing goalkeeper Smith into a decent save low to his right. Southend hit back through Corr, but visiting skipper Will Haining blocks his goal bound strike.
Southend briefly lift the spirits of the by now largely disinterested crowd when promising products of the youth set-up Mitchell Pinnock and the wonderfully named Seedy Njie are pitched into the action. Indeed, Njie almost salvages a point for the home side when his late shot is defected away by the Morecambe rearguard. What a moment that would have been for the Shrimpers fledgling striker!
The final whistle is greeted by more booing from the agitated locals. A season of one incredible high has terminated on a hugely disappointing low. Supporter’s stream away from Roots Hall disgruntled and genuinely concerned about the future.
Though slightly disenchanted with what I’ve seen, this has been a typical mid-table League 2 encounter. Erratic performances, from both the players and officials, offering the audience an abundance of frustration. Wonderful nights like that one against Spurs and similarly when Manchester United, West Ham and Chelsea came calling seem a distant memory, I wonder when we’ll see their likes again, the more cynical amongst you will ask why do I bother? However, this is what I do; it is what I have always done. Would I rather be anywhere else? YOU MUST BE JOKING!
Southend United; Paul Smith, Sean Clohessy, Anthony Straker, Ryan Creswell, Freddy Eastwood, Barry Corr, Matthew Lund, Kevan Hurst, Luke Prosser, Ryan Leonard, Gavin Tomlin.
Southend Subs; Daniel Bentley, Mark Phillips, Britt Assombalonga, Marc Laird, Seedy Njie, Mitchell Pinnock, Ryan Auger.
Morecambe; Barry Roche, Robbie Threlfall, Will Haining, Andrew Wright, Lewis Alessandra, Ryan Williams, Stewart Drummond, Andrew Fleming, Joe Mwasile, Andy Parrish, Jack Redshaw.
Morecambe Subs; Andreas Arestidou, Jordan Burrow, Gary McDonald, Joe McGee, Aaron McGowan, Chris Holroyd
Brian Jeeves with quill and parchment at Roots Hall Stadium.