Southend Defeated, Play-Offs Back On?
Shaun Miller struck a 65th minute winner against Southend last night to keep the Railwaymen`s season alive.
Dario stuck with the same team that had lost to Macclesfield but beaten Chesterfield in the previous seven days for a game that was do-or-die for both sides on the night. With both clubs sitting mid-table on 48 points, a defeat really would consign them to 10 meaningless games for the rest of the season.
You could have been forgiven for believing both teams had given up on their seasons already with a pretty dreadful first half that was a complete non-event. There`s no point in even trying to pad it out for the sake of the article, both struggled to really build a worthwhile attack and the Alex`s play in particular was more than a little patient.
The only two half-chances of the first forty five minutes did fall our way, David Artell`s header at the far post inside the first 10 minutes rebounded off the crossbar whilst Lee Bell put a 25 yard free kick onto the top of the crossbar five minutes before half time. In between there was a lot of fluff and not much action.
Southend edged it possession wise but never really posed much of a threat up front, whilst our 'free flowing` attack never got going. Luke Murphy struggled with the pitch and mis-placed a host of passes before Dario switched him and Moore over. The whole of the back line had the measure of their men with Artell and Dugdale putting in another solid shift.
By half time the game looked destined to finish a bore draw and one side needed a flash of inspiration to take the three points and for the second game running it was Ashley Westwood`s misfortunate that would help us seal three points.
Still suffering from a calf injury picked up early in the Chesterfield game, Westy was replaced at half time with Danny Shelley forcing Dario to tinker with his side, moving Murphy into the centre and Shelley on the right.
It was a forced change that just about swung the game in our direction. Donaldson and Miller were finally getting balls to feed on whilst Shelley and Moore were providing bursting runs through the centre.
The breakthrough finally came on 65 minutes as the Alex built up a head of steam. It all came from good work from Miller, holding off his man to bring the ball forward from the centre circle. He provided the ball for Shelley to thread through to Donaldson inside the box whose initial shot was pushed into the path of Miller by the keeper. Initially stumbling over the ball, his calm turn and shot left the Southend keeper no chance.
The red men smelt blood and went in search of quick fire double. David Artell flashed a free header just wide of the post and when Donaldson broken free from a dis-organised Southend defence it looked a certain goal as he chipped an onrushing keeper from 30 yards. However, for the third time in the match, the ball crashed off the crossbar.
At the other there was little threat, although as a Crewe fan you can never be too confident! Southend were largely limited to long range shots, perhaps even a tactic of theirs to capitalise on a poor pitch and a few bobbles. Rhys Taylor, though, had every shot covered.
With 15 minutes to see out, Dario made a change and brought on Joel Grant for Byron Moore. Oddly, Dario decided to move Donaldson out onto the wing and put Grant up front. Possibly a defensive tactic, it all but ended our attacking threat for the night and, it has to be said, Grant had a stinker.
For the remainder of the game it was a matter of sitting firm and see out the victory and thankfully there was no late drama to be had, other than perhaps a Dario seeming to not let Danny Shelley have the final free kick of the night in front of goal.
It`s another home win chalked up and moves us to within four points of the play-offs. Up next is a trip to Oxford and we really should be brimming with confidence. Just don`t mention the 7 away defeats on the bounce.