>On a day for the family to gather around the dinner table and put down the remains of Christmas Day’s turkey and jacket potatoes, football goes on and the Cobblers travelled to Southend to attempt to continue the momentum gained from a heroic comeback at Scunthorpe and single goal success over Carlisle at Sixfields.
But unfortunately there wasn’t much of a sign about on a chilly day in Essex that either Stuart Gray’s side or the side in the worst form in the division, Southend that a classic would be on the cards and Gray’s men would eventually succumb to losing a man and to a last gasp winner. The dramatic nature of the finish certainly didn’t match the previous 92 minutes of action as neither side wanted to make mistakes but both gave the ball away cheaply and were pretty much as bad as each other. A League One advertisement this was not.
Kyle Walker, the man who signed an extension to his loan spell last week, was one of those on the pitch at Roots Hall that could have shone brighter than anyone and took the game by the scruff of its neck but even he was off his usual form. Walker missed two good chances in a game bereft of goal mouth action. The defender first took down a knock from the returning Adebayo Akinfenwa to shoot straight at goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall and then missed an even better opportunity after good work from Liam Davis down the left hand side.
Jason Crowe nearly gave the home side a helping hand before half-time, narrowly escaping an own goal but the sides went in level after a poor first half and there was little to suggest that it would improve after half time.
The pace did increase a little with Giles Coke shooting wide at one end and the tricky Junior Stanislas beating two men and having a good effort saved by Chris Dunn. Dunn had little to do up until that point and it looked like he would follow up his clean sheet against Carlisle with another block out against the Shrimpers but when Abdul Osman was sent off for a second yellow card with fifteen minutes to go, you could sense an onslaught from Southend.
Akinfenwa was brought off to accommodate new tactics after Osman’s dismissal as Luke Guttridge joined the fray but we just couldn’t hold on. A free kick in stoppage time was given and you could feel that all so usual sinking feeling as Stanislas stepped up and curled the ball past Chris Dunn, who may feel he could have done better, to win the game for Southend and send the 400 or so Cobblers faithful home to pick up their Christmas leftovers in a foul mood.
The leftovers from this day will need to be picked up soon as Bristol Rovers visit Sixfields on Sunday afternoon in the final game of 2008. As we face 2009 in as much insecurity off the pitch as ever we must try to do everything we can in the vital ninety minutes on it to make sure we’re a League One club next season. Anything after that is a bonus in times of real uncertainty and anyone about to jump on the players’ backs for this Boxing Day defeat will do well to remember that it could be a whole lot worse.