Okay, so it wasn’t the comprehensive thrashing we predicted when we were first meant to play this game. But despite the dodgy postponement, despite the weather and despite United conceding yet another soft goal we’ve picked up all three points to sit proudly at the top of the table.
Joe Ironside was reinstated to the starting 11, and a wider formation was tried with Leon Davies in place of the injured Luke Hannant and Jack Iredale replacing the knackered Wes Hoolahan. Against a strong wind it was Southend who were quicker out the blocks, firing a shot from a dubiously offside position straight at Mitov and hitting the bar from a corner early on, whilst being a constant menace to the U’s defence. United never really got going in the first half until just before half time, a free kick drilled into the box and spilled by the keeper who took out Paul Digby in his attempts to recover the ball. Disgraced former Premier League referee Bobby Madley didn’t see anything wrong with this blatant foul, and a small scuffle ensued with Digby and Madley’s slaphead doppleganger Alan McCormack in the thick of it.
The second half kicked off with United now playing into the wind, rather than against it, and they made their advantage count instantly, a pinpoint Harrison Dunk pass landing at the feet of Jack Iredale who lashed it in to equalise. It was Dunk again who picked out the feet of Paul Mullin twenty minutes later, with the strikers touch taking it past the defender and he put in a cross that Joe Ironside couldn’t miss. Comeback complete. From here on, United continued as they were in the second half, marshalling the game whilst managing the seven minutes of added time well. Southend never really bothered Mitov once we were ahead, bar a couple of wild shots that ended up in the sea rather than anywhere near the target.
Late in the game Liam O’Neil came on, and much like on Saturday the Essex commentary team were expecting the familiar face of ex-Southend man Luke O’Neil, but were disappointed once more. A word for the commentary team at BBC Essex, after their colleagues dreadful display against Colchester the Southend team – featuring former U’s assistant manager Paul Clark – were a delight to listen to, with unbiased and insightful commentary of the game itself. Clark, left United in 1996 with Tommy Taylor to go to Leyton Orient had particular praise for Harry Darling and Paul Mullin, whilst also interjecting with a comedy ‘shankkk’ as one of the Southend defenders sliced the ball out of play.
Let’s not kid ourselves, United didn’t play particularly well, and were lucky Southend weren’t two or three nil up at half time. The second half was much better but there’s still errors in the defence we need to cut out. They say the measure of a good side is one that picks up points when not playing well, and that’s been us a few times recently. Conversely, a side that plays alright but still can’t find a way to hold on to a win are often doomed to relegation, and Southend will be worried after yet another defeat.
But credit where it’s due, and Bonner’s words at half time had the right effect on the side, who dug in and did their best to banish any memories of inept performances at Stevenage and Bradford. With Hiram Boateng due to return from his injury and the possibility of a loan addition before the transfer window shuts, it’s an exciting time to be a U’s fan, and even though the teams below us have a number of games in hand, you can only beat what’s in front of you. Three points is three points, and points on the board are better than games in hand at this stage of the season, and we’re back at the Abbey next to host a Bradford side who haven’t played since December. It’s a funny old season this one, but we’re starting, just starting to believe that it could be ours…
Man of the Match: Absolutely instrumental in both our goals, and already a club legend, Harrison Dunk gets the award this time round. He’s really showing his importance under Bonner and is playing some of his best football of his career.
Soundtrack of the Match: The Style Council – Shout To The Top
United: Mitov, Knoyle, Darling, Taylor, Dunk, Davies, May, Digby, Iredale, Mullin (O’Neil), Ironside
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