Critics will no doubt be saying our season is over after two defeats in a week have seen us lose further ground on the play-offs and suffer an agonising exit from the often-derided Football League Trophy – aka the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
But, credit where it is due. The score over the two legs of what is – arguably – the third and four tier League’s teams’ best chance of getting to Wembley – doesn’t lie and it’s fair to say that Southend were the more clinical side over the two legs.
Probably, the tie was lost in the first leg when we couldn’t hit the proverbial cow’s posterior with a banjo and we got caught by a second-half sucker punch. The same could be said for last night’s showdown at Roots Hall.
It’s always frustrating when your opponents soak up the pressure and hit you on the break and that’s basically what happened. The first coming from a free-kick after Britt Assombalonga had started a move down our left and then the same player had a hand in the goal.
The second – as we were pressing for that elusive winner – saw Kevan Hurst – a thorn in our side over the years – break down the same flank and square for one of the Blues’ better players – Ben Reeves – to score what was effectively a ‘golden’ goal – given the scant amount of time remaining on the clock.
However, positives can be taken that the gaffer has guided a team to a final – having overcome some challenging – if not difficult – opposition over the earlier rounds. After all, we had hardly set the tournament alight after last appearing at this stage in 1994/95 season.
So, reaching such a stage must be taken as a positive. Disappointing as it is – though – to miss out on a Wembley final, at least we have the consolation of a short trip to Colchester – and we could help to seal their fate if they should still be in a relegation scrap come early April!
But, despite a good turn out in the second leg, I am still a little miffed as to why there were less than 4000 home fans present at the first-leg. After all, Southend could boast nearly double our respective turnout and if – say – we had got to Wembley how many fans would have bothered to have turned up?
The club – after all – did all they could by reducing admission prices – so lack of support in that home tie could be used as a reason for us ultimately missing out on silverware.
Having lost at Hartlepool nearly a week ago – with the gap between us and seventh position ever widening – it will surely take a mammoth effort to reach the holy grail.
That’s not to say the season is dead and buried. If we can put another run together, then the sky’s the limit.
After all, this time last year signs of inconsistency were starting to show and we almost ended the season needing snookers to survive, with the efforts of Notts County’s Alan Judge and Wycombe’s ability to implode ultimately saving us from the drop.
So, on the positive front we are almost ‘home and hosed’ – almost certainly not facing a relegation scrap – and still in with an outside chance of making the play-offs.
It could be worse, couldn’t it?
Keep the faith,
Up the O’s.