League Two Form Guide
Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
Freddy and the Dreamers: Southend Report
By: Tony Butcher
A queer old day by the sea. Hail, sun, rain and wind battered 2,000 shrimps in the Osmond Stand. Surely a day too early, for the largest prawn cocktail in the world was due to be made on Blundell Park the next day, with Tony "Chubby" Crane providing the celebrity comic relief and to stir the first prawn.
Or am I mixing up the social calendar here?
Town lined up in a 5:3:2 formation as follows: Williams, McDermott, Whittle, Forbes, Crane, Bull, Fleming, Crowe, Pinault, Reddy and Gritton. The substitutes were Downey, Soames, Ramsden, Coldicott and Parkinson. Nothing much to say about that, is there? Just about the strongest team available, the grand blooding of the youngsters consisted of 18 minutes of Worcester sauce. Or perhaps this is the final piece in the masterplan to ensure Scunthorpian humiliation. We've lent them points, we've stopped their opponents, we're going to force them to be promoted: short term pain, long term gain. They have two months of happiness followed by nine long, long months of water torture. Yeah, that's it, we're going to make them get promoted by trying a bit today.
Williams was wearing exactly the same kit as the referee and linesman. He should have slipped a couple of red cards into his back pocket, just in case. Or maybe he thinks that by being disguised as a referee he'll get less barracking from the barrack-room lawyers.
Southend turned up in a Lazio-like sky blue ensemble, looking large; hoping, no doubt, to large it over us erstwhile league leapers. Ah, those were the days my friend, we were lepers though when we were both in the old second division. Let's draw a veil over Cambridge, the Third Man.
Nicky Nicolau - how tattifilarious. Shame he ain't playing. And Freddy Eastwood doesn't sound like a footballer, more like a tennis playing bounder from Decline and Fall. We shall see, won't we.
Dish of the Day morphed into "Future players portions" and ended the season on a light note: today's youngsters are going to die before their parents. No point in wasting time and money on a youth team then, Mr F.
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon. And they passed it. To each other. Regularly. On the ground. We were confused into silence. Watch the jingle jangle start to chime: Pinault the fulcrum, tapping his green tambourine; Macca can dance, Reddy can jive. Though it wasn't quite the time of our lives it was better than most of this year.
Ooh, de-lovely. Ahh, delightful.
McDermott riding his chariot of fire down the wing, burning and turning his marker. A pass back up the line to Pinault and a glorious reverse sweep to the boundary. Well, Crowe is on the edge of something. The Man-who-was-a-Gunner played an excellent pass through the centre of the defence, the ball tantalising the keeper and teasing Barrett and Prior, who build affordable new homes. Flahavan left his safe haven, creeping up towards the penalty spot as Reddy raced around the back. Keeper and defenders collided, the ball rolled free, more legs appeared, more bodies fell. Gritton slid through and ended up past the post with the ball rolling gently towards him. He got up and thwacked the ball in from about a yard out, just to the right of goal. Offside, by miles. If Gritton had, like all good serial killers, kept himself to himself, then one of the three unoffside Town players pounding up to pounce would have scored. And just three minutes gone, what excitement.
What is going on out there? Pinault continued to dictate with Crowe chest-bursting from midfield and McDermott trembling up the wing whilst Gritton and Reddy manoeuvred their tanks. Rockin' and rolling along, tickled free down the centre by Fleming, Reddy you're a teaser, you turn 'em on, leave them burning and then you're gone. Rolling around Prior, the ball bouncing handsomely and ready to thwack, Reddy saw a falling star and fell over it. Going for a penalty, not gold. Yeah, like we've been lethal from the penalty spot. Silly boy. A bit of Town pressure, mild interest, nothing remotely resembling a half chance of nearly getting in a position to think about passing to someone who might shoot.
Southend headed the ball a lot. No matter what height, they headed it. They'd get down on their knees and pray to the gods of Wimbledon past if they had to. If you asked a Southend player to spell "subtle" they'd say "aitch oh oh eff". They did pass it once along the ground. When I say "they" I mean their supporters, who played an exquisite pass down the touchline with a beachball. Have they got in the Town area yet?
It's as easy as a Sunday morning stroll in a prawn cocktail. Fifteen minutes of wallowing in nostalgia for...last August. How the heck have they managed to get to fourth?
Oh, this is how. Eastwood, the only good in a bad and ugly style. Style, what a misnomer; it isn't style, it's method. Vigorous football: all bang it up and barge about. They relied on pace, power and Freddy, a man two divisions below his true level. Fifteen minutes, a shot, finally. Whacked forward, chased and harried down their left, Eastwood barundled Crane aside and drickled a shot high and wide across the face of goal. Not close, but it was a little whisper in our collective ear.
Southend took over, allying some semi-psychotic challenges to their energetic approach to beachcombing. Town sank further and further back; the phoney war was over. It was like they had something to play for and we didn't. Once the feet started flying some Town players became Stuart Campbellesque in their conspicuous invisibility. Oddly, Pinault was trying to be Mr Muscle, whilst some of his colleagues rather stood off some two footed lunges.
Ah, but what of the Three Tenors at the back? Placido DeForbo was starting to be a bit ruffled by all this harrying and hassling, sending several sturdy back passes to Williams, who was not appreciative of his efforts. Cranevotti provided the big bottomed hip-hopping barrier, whilst...darn it, it doesn't work with Whittle, does it. Whittle was big, brave and the glue that just about held this wobbly wall together. Oh there they are - Eastwood twinkling free, crossing from left to right towards the gigantic gray whale unmarked but a yard below the torpedo. The Southend fans oo-ed, just to keep their spirits up.
The force was with them. The force was strong.
Southend tried, and they tried, and they tried and they tried but they couldn't get any satisfaction as they ground Town down. Wave upon wave of attacks, Town unable to gain any control, for clearance were hurried and huge. It was a big game of pinball with the Town back three as the flippers. Whacked in, tribbled out, whacked in faster and higher, flicked aside, smacked in again. Ding-Ding-Ding, bonus points on offer if they get it in the hole. The flanks were being eroded quicker than Spurn Point. Abandoned by the council for cost reasons, Macca and Bull were left to fend for themselves as the lifeboatmen huddled in their little shack inside the penalty area. Being an old pro McDermott had brought along his own inflatable arm bands, flares and provisions to last seventy minutes in the open sea.
Eastwood again, selling Crane some timeshares in Magaluf before scaring the roosting pigeons in the floodlight. A corner, another, then another. The Osmond Stand throbbing with hope, pulsating with desire, the rest of the ground expecting opposition dream fulfilment. Big bird Barrett, rising in the centre, skidded a header a couple of feet over the bar. A scramble from another; concession was close. Bodies thrown in front of the rockets, collateral damage only.
Seen Jason Crowe recently?
More, more, more Southend attacking, free kicks a-go-go. Huge lumps, Titans clashing, the ball permanently inside Williams' area. We're waiting, let 'em have it. We're cool, we don't need the points. Town squeezed like a lemon on the right, squelched like a rotten tomato on the left, to the bye-line, a cross pulled back to Pettefer, unmarked near the penalty spot. He leant back and guided the ball a foot or so over the crossbar. It was probably easier to score.
Seen Terry Fleming recently?
Back they rolled, the wind rising, forcing Town clearances to turn back on themselves. Bull sliced across the face of his own area, Crane headed vertically; Southend were happy as head tennis is their game. Town holding on, which is why they got a load more free kicks, I suppose. Gray, on their right on the corner of the penalty area, flickered himself free, rolling and sprinting away from Forbes. He hit the byeline, dribbled inside the area and rolled a cross through the six yards box. Crane was the only Town defender back and he shovelled the ball out for corner from in front of goal with Southenders to his left and right. Perhaps the Town programme should have the words "Don't Panic" written across it. Town got out their towels and managed to avoid incineration from the resulting corner. Like a post war housing development: one, two, three towering blocks in a row, hackery and dackery, the ball falling to Prior, his shot thundering against some monochrome bottom - danger averted.
Seen Town recently?
Ah, the traditional pre-half time shot. Finally Town controlled the ball, passing to each other, with Pinault stroking a first time shot a foot or so over the angle of post and bar after Gritton had trundled around and poked the ball infield. Town pressure, no chances, just chasing back passes and general "oooing" as Reddy threatened to nearly get the ball.
There were four minutes of added time, which astounded everyone. Was the ref enjoying it so much he just didn't want it to end? It was OK for us, but not great. I'd rather have a ham sandwich.
Finally the referee decided he wanted to go to the toilet and so could we. As the players walked off there were three boos. Why? Were these ironic boos? Where they positively booing the boo boys for not booing? Two negatives make a positive, John.
Town had been superior footballers for 15 minutes, with Southend being just a bunch of athletes to our aesthetes. But then they took over, bullying their way forward, strangling the ball and beating it into submission. Town managed, through luck, bad shooting and brave defending to hold on. Just.
A half that was just like the season: it started with Town dominating, producing little, and ultimately cowering under the stairs when the big boys shout.
Does it matter?
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Crowe's reduced me to phonetic moaning."
The report continues in the Second Half.
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