Saturday, August 25th 2012
The Cobblers have made a terrific start to this season –something that we’ve not had the luxury to say over the last few years – and have actually given fans some sense of, wait for it, optimism ahead of the weekend visit of Southend. A strange phenomenon this may be but having disposed of Cardiff City, held Rochdale at Spotland and beaten Steve Evan’s Rotherham on Tuesday night as well as putting in three real tough shifts it’s fair to say that this has been the most positive start to a season for many a year.
True, it was only a year ago that we were lauding over a four point league haul as well as dumping Ipswich out of the cup but this season the performances after three games have been a massive step up and are the reason for a sunnier outlook. We lost the next five games last season following that similar start so we must be wary as we come up against a Southend side who, despite having a shaky start themselves, are a real threat and who won 5-2 at Sixfields back in January.
As well as the enigmatic Bilel Mohsni who has made his position very clear by swanning off to France recently, the Shrimpers saw a couple of important players depart this summer. Anthony Grant joined League One Stevenage for an undisclosed fee while the future of star man Ryan Hall is still in considerable doubt with Championship clubs interested in the midfielder. Hall started on the bench on Tuesday night at Oxford.
The return of Freddy…
There was also big news coming through the Roots Hall door in the opposite direction over the summer with Freddy Eastwood completing a return to the club that made him famous. Eastwood was prolific in his first spell with United with an average of a goal every two games before moving on to Wolves in 2007. After a difficult first season, he moved to Coventry before signing on loan for the Shrimpers last season, scoring twice. Eastwood made the move permanent a month ago.
Three defeats in three…
The thing that makes Southend dangerous, in my eyes, is that they’ve lost the last three games. It sounds silly but that’s usually my logic when it comes to Cobblers law. The Shrimpers will take no real disappointment from the first of the three reverses so far – 4-0 at Peterborough in the Capital One Cup – but were beaten by Accrington at home on the opening day before Tuesday night’s 2-0 loss at Oxford.
Cobblers midfielder Luke Guttridge was with Southend from 2005 until 2007, making over fifty appearances for the Shrimpers and scoring five times before moving on to Leyton Orient.
The Cobblers will likely stick with the successful starting line-up from Tuesday night’s victory over Rotherham with no new injury concerns going into the weekend.
Southend will have to do without Michael Timlin after he was sent off after half an hour of Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat at Oxford. Meanwhile, Freddy Eastwood and Barry Corr are likely to sit out with on loan Watford youngster Britt Assombalonga set to start up front again.
Last Six Meetings…
14/01/12: Cobblers 2-5 Southend (League Two)
With Aidy Boothroyd still trying to shape his side together having joined the Cobblers a few weeks earlier, Southend came to town and hit us for five. John Johnson put Town in front before Dave Martin equalised five minutes before the break. Said Berahino scored right on the brink of half time but the Shrimpers hit back with four second half goals thanks to braces from Liam Dickinson and Bilel Mohsni.
03/09/11: Southend 2-2 Cobblers (League Two)
Earlier that season the Cobblers earned a good point at Roots Hall thanks to an extraordinary fight back that saw Bayo Akinfenwa and Arron Davies equalise Bilel Mohsni and Ryan Hall’s goals within five second half minutes down in Essex.
26/02/11: Southend 1-1 Cobblers (League Two)
In a tight match at Roots Hall, the Cobblers took the lead through John Johnson before Barry Corr equalised minutes later. This was to be the final of six draws in a row in early 2011 and would end up being Ian Sampson’s final away game in charge.
11/09/10: Cobblers 2-1 Southend (League Two)
The Cobblers won for the first time in the league in the 2010/11 season as Anthony Grant’s 57thminute strike was cancelled out by Abdul Osman. Andy Holt netted the winner with fifteen minutes to go and we were finally up and running in the League Two campaign.
13/04/09: Cobblers 2-3 Southend (League Two)
A Bank Holiday encounter went the way of the Shrimpers as Jean-Francois Christophe put the visitors in front in the first half. The second half came to life after the break though as Bayo Akinfenwa levelled and Theo Robinson put Southend back into the lead. Lee Barnard’s goal a few minutes later extended the lead and Aleksandar Prijovic’s strike was only a consolation for the Cobblers late on.
26/12/08: Southend 1-0 Cobblers (League Two)
A Boxing day match at Roots Hall ended with Southend victorious thanks to Junior Stanislas’ winner in stoppage time. That was after Abdul Osman had been sent off for the Cobblers with fifteen minutes to go but we couldn’t quite hold out for a point.
The Man in the Middle…
Stephen Martin takes charge on Saturday fresh from sending off Gillingham’s Tom Flanagan at Wycombe. Martin was promoted from non-league ranks at the end of last season and referees a Cobblers game for the first time.
I’m strangely confident after witnessing the Rotherham game first hand and with Southend struggling to get going it could be a good chance to garner three points against one of the better sides in the division. It’ll no doubt be tough but I’m going for a 2-1 Cobblers win.