Southend United squeezed past Burton Albion to record their first win since January on Saturday afternoon. In the context of this chaotic League One dog fight this result lifts the Blues out of the relegation zone but, with two games remaining, they are not yet safe from the drop.
Southend United Ease Fears of Relegation With Win Over Burton Albion
The sense of relief at Roots Hall was palpable when referee Dean Whitestone blew his whistle in the 96th minute. Following the injustice against Walsall on Good Friday, Southend United fans felt that a win was more than they deserved.
There was an enormous sense of trepidation going into the game. A loss would have left the Blues three points adrift with only two games remaining. Both clashes, incidentally, coming against sides with plenty to play for. Firstly Rochdale, who are still fighting to stay in the division, followed by high-flying Sunderland, who are desperate to get out of it.
Burton Albion’s form of late had also left Southend fans fearing the worst. Besides a narrow defeat against Portsmouth, the Brewers had convincingly beaten Barnsley and Scunthorpe, drawn against Sunderland and put five past Accrington Stanley.
Three Months Of Hurt
The Shrimpers rose to the challenge, however, and finally ended their bleak run of fifteen games without a win. Sam Mantom latched on to a delicious Simon Cox cross 18 minutes into proceedings, but history had taught the Southend faithful not to get ahead of themselves.
Though they have become accustomed to disappointment, Harry Bunn deftly converted another Cox delivery early in the second half. This was Southend’s first and second goals at home since mid-February, and Roots Hall was bouncing again.
John Brayford then subdued the carnival atmosphere on the hour mark, which promptly reintroduced that familiar feeling of doubt. This expectation to crumble and predisposition to disappointment was, to their fans’ delight, betrayed when Southend added a third.
Kevin Bond’s inspired substitutions Michael Kightly and Timothee Dieng had combined to restore hope. The collective blood pressure shot up once again, however, when Marcus Harness slotted in a Burton Albion second.
Time moved torturously in slow-motion for the following ten minutes. It was all hands to the pump as Southend desperately fended off Burton’s advances, but eventually, the sweet sound of Whitestone’s whistle echoed dulcetly for the 6,000 fans inside Roots Hall.
Not Over Yet
Despite emerging victorious in this thriller, Bond has urged his players not to get carried away. Southend are only one point above the relegation zone and could find themselves back there on Saturday afternoon if results go against them.
Rochdale have hit a good run of form of late, which has come at totally the wrong time. Form and logic, however, rarely seem to influence the outcome of the match for Southend United. In a messy season of turbulence and disaster, anything can happen on the day.
Kevin Bond has finally got Southend United players caring and playing for the badge. The scenes at the final whistle and the work ethic across the ninety minutes gave every indication of that. Players collapsed to the floor and cathartically released their emotions before the fans.
If his side had held on for the last five minutes against Fleetwood Town and were not robbed by referee Ross Joyce against Walsall, then Bond would have virtually secured safety. In the short time he has been at Roots Hall, he has rapidly changed the ethos and unlocked Southend’s hidden potential.
Next Saturday is one of the most pivotal and defining weekends in recent history for the Shrimpers. A loss against Rochdale would leave them in dire straits, with only automatic promotion-pushing Sunderland left to play.