It’s no tea party for indifferent Shrimpers! - Chelmsford City 1-1 Southend United
By Brian Jeeves
Brian Jeeves and friends at Melbourne Park.
In the brilliant football film, “My Summer with Des” Neil Morrissey’s character Martin states, “It’s nice to watch football with lovers and friends”, and tonight is no exception. I add lovers, as tonight is Ed’s wedding anniversary. For the umpteenth time the big lad is spending this special landmark at a football match while wife Hayley has an evening with full access to the TV controls. Still, I guess she can’t complain too much, after all, on one anniversary he did take her to see Southend United Reserves. Along with Ed I am joined at tonight’s pre season delicacy by Jo and her dad Brian along with Andy and Peter, but hey, this is a special night therefore I am dedicating this tale to the happy couple, Ed and Hayley.
Anyway, Southend United looked to step up the pre-season preparations at Melbourne Park, Chelmsford. Manager Phil Brown revealed that he wanted his starting XI to be up to completing at least seventy-five minutes of this latest practise game, SEVENTY-FIVE MINUTES PHILLIP? As a kid, I remember having kick abouts at the old Post Office field on Ashingdon Road that lasted for 10 hours, WITHOUT STOPPING FOR TEA!
Chelmsford City Football Club are celebrating their 75th Anniversary. Personally, I’m delighted the club have reached this milestone and settled back in the City after several years in exile at Maldon and Billericay. However, for me, their current home will never surpass those glorious Saturdays when dad and I would watch the morning session at Essex County Cricket Club then pop next door to see Southern League football at the wonderful New Writtle Street Stadium in the afternoon.
The Shrimpers started in top gear. Only three minutes had elapsed when Anthony Straker burst clear and unleashed a thundering strike past City keeper Carl Pentney giving the visitors a perfect start.
This, we believed, would be the signal for Southend to push on for a comfortable victory. Indeed, both Ryan Cresswell and John White had headed attempts cleared as pressure on the home goal mounted.
Chelmsford’s first sight of goal came when former Southend man Nicky Nicolau fired just past an upright, while at the other end, Will Atkinson saw his free kick fisted away by Pentney. After City’s Sam Long had tested Daniel Bentley with a low drive, Ryan Leonard wasted a glorious opportunity to double the Shrimpers lead, steering wide from close range after excellent flank play from Atkinson.
Both teams seem to find the bumpy surface a hindrance; as a result, the game became somewhat flat. Attention turned to the half time fare, but I gave the bacon roll second thoughts after sidekick Ed only gave them a 5/10 rating (6/10 with ketchup). Although food was very much our thought, the Shrimpers minds once again seemed tuned in to adding to their slender lead. Twice Pentney reacted quickly to deny Eastwood and Atkinson but it has to be said, as the half drew to a close the game had become largely uneventful. Minds had once again wondered from the respective charges on display and conversation had turned to Ed’s shocking new ringtone while Jo was inquisitive as to where we’d be watching Rugby League after next Good Friday’s visit to Rochdale.
The second period got underway but focus in the stand was now very much on the half time brew, a subtle blend of tea/coffee/hot chocolate and Bovril, which had the taste buds taking cover and the Food Standards Agency alerted!
Southend trialist Don Cowan tried to give the encounter a spark, his clever back heel found John White but the former Colchester man pulled his shot across the face of goal. Soon after, Anthony Straker went close to adding to his and Southend’s goal tally with a terrific effort that whistled just past an upright. In the meantime, Ed discovered the root of the mystical cuppa issue. A somewhat aging tea bag was mashed into the bottom of the cup and appeared to have taken up residence there some time before hot water and a spoonful of coffee had paid a visit!
Nevertheless, there was still a football match going on in front of us. Ryan Cresswell should have done better when heading Atkinson’s cross high and wide, as should Eastwood who ran out of room and idea’s after bursting past the City rearguard. Try as the players might, the game had become so stagnant we had taken to flicking through a copy of the Topical Times Football Annual from 1969/70 season. As the musky pages were turned, Ed questioned whether Ernie Hunt of Coventry City was Cockney rhyming slang, while Andy secretly wished for a head of hair that made him look more like Gary Sprake of Leeds and less like Bobby Charlton of Manchester United!
Spirited Chelmsford City had managed to keep their professionally ranked visitors within sight and with four minutes remaining, they delivered the proverbial sting in the tail. Evergreen striker Bertie Brayley has had more clubs than Tiger Woods, but right now the Shrimpers support were cursing that he had turned up at Chelmsford. The former West Ham United, Queen’s Park Rangers, Swindon Town, Canvey Island, Heybridge Swifts, Hornchurch (comes up for air), Braintree Town, Billericay Town, Farnborough Town, Thurrock, Aldershot Town, Grays Athletic, Margate (ok, starting to lose the will to live here), Eastleigh, Bishops Stortford, Concord Rangers, Harlow Town, Tooting & Mitcham United, Basildon United and so on... man thumping an unstoppable shot high into the net, although perhaps Bentley will believe he could have done better with the initial cross. In the dying embers of the game, both Eastwood and White had efforts blocked by stand-in keeper Lee Butcher as City held on for a share of the spoils.
Although some might argue that this was only a friendly, Southend’s early displays have been somewhat disappointing. What with all the chopping, changing and uncertainty at Roots Hall, there has only been a ripple of optimism amongst the Roots Hall faithful as the League season looms into the horizon. Following this latest performance, that ripple seems to have turned into a wave of concern.
Chelmsford City; Pentney, Miller, Smith, Davis, Haines, Webb, Long, Lock, Edmans, St Aimie, Nicolau
Chelmsford City substitutes: Brayley, Cheek, Dawkin, Afori, Spriggs, Butcher.
Southend United: Bentley; White, Cresswell, Phillips, Coker; Leonard (Carrington 72), Laird, Atkinson, Straker; Cowan (Trialist) (Njie 62), Eastwood.