It does feel like a big balloon has burst but we still have something to play for this afternoon as if we win and Portsmouth only draw, or even lose, we'll finish above them and then play either Doncaster or Peterborough in the play-offs. I reckon we could beat either of those two over two legs. I want us to avoid Portsmouth at all costs and let Charlton see them off as I think we could also beat Charlton in a one-off at Wembley. In fact to a neutral it's a very interesting day as Barnsley could end up top, the fourth slot in the play-offs is still up for grabs and we could end up in third, fourth or fifth spot. There's a real seafood aspect to this week's fixtures as having succumbed to the Fishermen on Tuesday we now face the Shrimpers today. They're on a very bad run and as they're battling against relegation they're not going to be doing us any favours. I haven't seen this mentioned but has the absence of Leadbitter in our last three very disappointing games been a factor? In the few matches I've seen him in he looked a class above most of the other players on the field. It looks like McGeady will miss out today but Wyke is likely to take part and after all those misses on Tuesday he could well make a difference. I'll be at the game with my senior citizen's ticket and will be accompanied by a mate I've known for fifty-five years. I don't have a clear feeling about my match prediction as I think it'll either be a 3-1 win or 2-2.
I'll keep this brief as it was a bum day all round for me and many others. Things got off to a bad start when my mate and I had problems linking up and then we decided to defer having a beer till we got to Southend. We only saw two pubs in the area of the ground and just one of them was for our fans and it had a queue. So we decided to have a beer in the ground but having got there, being soaked en route, we discovered there was no alcohol on sale despite being lured around a corner by a sign bearing the word 'Bar'. It was freezing and we passed the time in the tea-room till kick-off an hour later.
Anyway, things brightened up as the game began with both sets of fans making a good racket helped by the proximity of their end to ours. A good deal of fancy dress was in evidence and there were many inflatable items including footballs, a banana, a hammer and of course an inflatable woman being battered around. I thought a guy near me was wearing one of those funny old man masks but I was glad I didn't make a comment about it as it turned out to be his real face.
Hume and Leadbitter were starting for us but I couldn't see Catts or O'Nien anywhere. As to the football, Southend had much the better of it in the first-half, winning six corners to our two, and we only mustered two shots, both from Maguire. McLaughlin made a great save in the ninth minute to stop what looked like a certain goal but just before the break they took the lead when it looked like we'd cleared a corner only for White To score with an overhead kick. Our play had been disjointed on the whole and on two occasions our players were arguing with each other when things had gone wrong. Our trapping and passing was at times pathetic and there were horrible flashbacks to recent seasons as we repeatedly passed sideways and backwards instead of going forwards.
Things didn't get much better till around the hour-mark when we made a double substitution, replacing Gooch and Grigg with O'Nien and Sterling. We immediately had a lot more punch, giving Southend no space and battling our way down the right flank especially forcing throw after throw. We had a good shout for a penalty when Wyke was clattered to the ground but there was nothing doing. Ten minutes later, though, and after McGeouch had come on for Power the ref did award a spot kick when Wyke was again fouled in the area. At first I thought Maguire had duffed it but his low shot went into the bottom left corner to put us level. We were definitely on top but gradually we lost our ascendency and a couple of minutes from time Southend got the winner with a low shot from Humprys from inside the box. There was a very long period of stoppage-time after O'Nien and White collided but we couldn't make anything count and it ended in another very disappointing defeat. The Southend fans were very happy of course but I couldn't get out of there quick enough.
So, we have to play our nemesis Portsmouth twice more. If we play like we did for most of today's match, we'll never get to Wembley. Mind you, Portsmouth have gone off the boil too.