- Southend United ran out deserved 1-0 winners in an uneventful encounter against Bury but just fell short of the play-offs after a much more dramatic game was played out at the Memorial Stadium. The Shakers survived thanks to both Gillingham and Port Vale drawing blanks in their respective games.
- On Sunday’s evidence however, Lee Clark’s admission that his side had “limped over the line” was an understatement. The Shrimpers managed to keep the attacking trio of James Vaughan, Tom Pope and Ryan Lowe extremely quiet and the visitors didn’t manage a single shot on target, which is a particularly damning statistic given the very high stakes of the match. In contrast to my preview, captain Anton Ferdinand shrugged off both his recent poor form and the potential threats against him and his fellow defenders with consummate ease. George Miller was similarly dominated when he came on for Pope early in the second half and it will prove to be a harsh learning experience for the youngster.
- The midfield shape that had worked well against Northampton for Clark was found wanting against a more organised, quicker and skillful unit. With Lowe often too far in advance of Andrew Tutte and Paul Caddis, Phil Brown’s men were able to play in between them effectively and hog possession in more penetrative areas. Ryan Leonard was desperately unlucky with a snapshot from outside the box in one such passage of play to hit the outside of the post with stopper Joe Murphy beaten at his near post by the pace of the ball.
- The hosts’ midfield dominance made for a solid platform for Simon Cox and Marc-Antoine Fortuné to stay as high up the pitch as possible and look for pockets of space in between the centre backs and draw fouls from them on the turn. With three of Bury’s back five issued with yellow cards, proceedings increasingly played into the strikers’ hands.
- Stephen McLaughlin’s terrific half-volley for the only goal at Roots Hall was a reminder of the effectiveness of late runs into the area from midfield in open play. Very rarely this season have the Lancashire outfit had more than two lurking from crosses and although Leon Barnett’s poor headed clearance was straight into his unmarked path, it underlines how important the second ball can be from such situations from both a defensive and attacking point of view. Most successful teams know when and where to get bodies forward to hurt their opposition. Southend have frequently managed to do this throughout 2016/2017 and even with several injuries of their own to key players, they look to have the squad to push on next season and go higher.
- There were only two small silver linings for the away supporters to hold onto (other than retaining third tier status). Danny Mayor made a cameo from the bench after such a long spell out and whilst clearly not 100% yet, he showed flashes of why he has been so sorely missed. The second green shoot of promise was having Will Ferry named alongside him after another excellent showing for the U18s in the penalty shootout defeat to Blackpool in midweek. Like Mayor, he carries a threat in the final third in wide(r) areas that has been lacking and it would be no surprise to see him feature heavily in Clark’s plans next season and he is bound to be joined by at least several of his teammates given the manager’s emphasis on handing sustained opportunities to talented players regardless of age.
- I managed to narrowly triumph over my 19 month-old son with score predictions from when this blog started at the end of January. I’m not sure I deserve much of an award for it though!