Eventually O’Connor, looking coolness personified, slotted the ball low into the goalie’s right-hand corner, without actually sending him the wrong way.
This was about the only way either team were going to score in a game that had 0-0 written all over it and to be frank, goes down as the least enjoyable Cherries away win I have seen in 36 years.
Given our record at Roots Hall, if you had said at the start of the season, ‘three points at Southend this season, but an awful game’ most fans would have said ‘ta very much, we’ll take the points, but I won’t bother going’.
With Young out suffering from flu, Narada came in at left back and Purches moved over to right back.
O’Connor was the first to show any skill and on six minutes Hayter headed the first real chance over the bar, followed closely by a Soupa shot wide. Cherries were applying most of the pressure at this time but Neil Moss had to be quick to come out and block at Bramble’s feet.
Cherries earned the first corner on the quarter hour from which Elliott shot over. Southend had a header wide, then Hayter shot wide and Fletcher shot wide again. Following a Narada mistake, Sarfend earned their first corner and before the half was out Thomas put an effort wide as well.
Soupa was having one of those ineffective games where his flick-on’s and passes rarely found a team mate, he was caught in possession and after the first 15 minutes it all became very disjointed with neither team able to string more than a few passes together. It was one of those games where Fletch’s lack of pace and mobility actually hampers the team and in Cort he had someone who more than matched his physique.
Whilst Fletch was battling it out with Cort the Younger and getting booked for one challenge, Bramble the Younger displayed an inability to control the ball when it mattered. Former loanee, Tony Scully, now much fuller of figure and with a lot less hair than when he was at DC, had a couple of runs and crosses but flattered to deceive.
Southend opened the second half with a couple of corners and really little of note happened until the penalty. I must admit that by then I had long given up hope of us scoring from open play.
Following the penalty one other Cherries break should have paid dividends but Thomas did not go in to a 50-50 with the Sarfend goalie, who was well out of his area, with anything like enough conviction. The ball cannoned of his knee and went just wide, but a determined, fair tackle would surely have won the ball and left him with an unguarded net to aim for.
Tindall made a late and welcome appearance as a substitute. I’d like to see him with a mean looking Grade One instead of the weird and wonderful ‘bun’ style but I’m not going to tell him to his face, are you ?
Sarfend had a couple of attacks at the death but their final ball and shooting was appalling. Three welcome points but a game that will only linger in the memory as an example of how bad some games can be.
To be fair to the team, the management and the tactics, the result was not a fluke, we never looked like conceding a goal and given the number of injuries, the game plan might not have been attractive to watch but it was effective, if not entirely convincing.
A computer crash meant that I finished this report after the Hartlepool/Southend replay. Of the 561 Cherries fans at Roots Hall, few would have given the Shrimpers any chance at the Victoria Ground. Our second round FA Cup tie should be a much more interesting affair.
AFCB: Moss, Purches, C. Fletcher, Broadhurst, Narada, Elliott, Browning, O’Connor, Thomas, (Tindall 89) S. Fletcher, Hayter.
Subs not used: Stewart, Chukki, Foyewa, Holmes
Gordon Buchan, Yately