Quick brain dump of my view from yesterday's game.
First and foremost, Southend really is a shit hole and despite that everyone seems to want to get to it as the traffic was horrendous. Luckily found another way out of the dump. Blue Boar pub on the cross roads up from the town was "away fans" only though and there was a decent chippy opposite, so not all bad.
Although I detest the new, soulless stadiums like Colchester, Southend's traditional old "subbuteo" style stadium really does need a revamp. There was ivy growing throughout the away stand and the asbestos roof was actually lifting and dropping when the Blades started singing at full volume - nice to be showered in asbestos dust for 90 minutes ;-)
Anyway, grumbles aside, it was a good day out on my birthday with a great present from the Blades.
I've seen a few games lately including the ones on TV and what strikes me about this team is the depth of quality and desire. I don't think there's one weak spot in the entire team both in terms of capability and effort. All of them, subs included, put in 110% in all of the games I've seen of late.
Also, as the Southend fans have been tweeting, teams find it difficult to cope with how quickly and accurately we move the ball. It must be frustrating for an opposing player to be chasing shadows for so much of the game. A ground like Southend, where you're practically shoulder to shoulder with the players gives you a true perspective on our approach. When we get the ball out wide, there are three Blades players instantly within 10 feet of the ball, giving a double outlet for the player in possession and drawing three defenders from the middle.
Sometimes I wish we'd get the ball into the middle a little quicker, but when you're scoring 4 away from home at a playoff contender, you can't really complain and should have a little bit of patience.
Lavery is going to be a star - that's my prediction. He's big and strong but also skilful. He can turn his defender everytime and once he gets fully match fit he's going to start scoring on a regular basis.
I was a bit worried about Carruthers. He seemed to hurt himself in the celebrations for the goal and went down off the ball after an seemingly innoculus challenge. He called to Freeman straight away to put the ball out, even though we were four against three and Freeman could have put Sharp in the clear. Hope it's not too serious. He looked class on the few occasions he got on the ball in his short lived debut though - and was welcomed onto the field with a chorus of "he'll piss where he wants"...
Their second consolation goal was a foul from where I was standing. Their player caught ours after the ball had broken harmlessly free (O'Connell I think) and he went sprawling the attacker was quickest to recover and scored. A late challenge is a late challenge...
Moore kept us in it at 1-1 again with two good saves, and another at the end to keep it 4-2.
The first ten minutes we looked like we might win this 5 or 6 nil, but credit to Southend who are a big, physical side, they muscled their way back in it with long balls to their two massive forwards. First half they were wining most 50:50s and picking up all of the second balls. However, second half we just ran them ragged with some great possession football. Let's not forget also, they were unbeaten in 7 or something like that before yesterday.
Duffy had another good game, although he did give the ball away alot with hurried passes when he'd have been better turning and going the other way, but to be fair he also created a large number of chances, including being involved in the first two goals.
Overall, a great day out and a deserved result. Harry and I had a fiver on Ebanks-Landell to score and Blades to win at 12-1 whilst waiting for kick off, so nice result there too...
I really can't see this side throwing this away - there's too much strength in depth. The key games will be the ones against Scunthorpe, Bolton and Bradford at home and if we can get results in those, then I think we'll coast it.
Southend fans I spoke to on the way from he ground said we were the best side they'd seen all season by a long way and were all confident they'd just watched the league champions elect... Let's hope they're right.
Confidence is sky high right now. I've just booked my hotel (the Doubletree) in MK for the promotion party...
Just hope I can get tickets now. How about 10k Blades taking over Stadium MK for a big send off...