Rovers suffered a loss to Southend United in their opening game of the season, losing 2-1 to Phil Brown’s men.
After a pre-season with 4 wins (Barrow, York, Morecambe and Grimsby), and 2 losses, (in Salzburg to Sparta Prague and at Carlisle), Rovers headed into the opening encounter relatively confident of getting the season off to a great start.
Rovers’ team seemed to be a very strong side, with Mulgrew and Lenihan partnering at the back, and with Smallwood and Whittingham in the centre of midfield, and Dack in behind Graham, Rovers looked like they could win this game.
The first ten minutes seemed end-to-end, with Rovers almost being gifted a goal by the Southend defence. Bennett’s ball wasn’t dealt with by Ferdinand, White and Oxley, and Dack nearly got the ball. Southend then got a corner after 10 minutes, after good work by ex-Burnley winger Michael Kightly, but the resulting corner was cleared by the Rovers defence.
Southend then had two chances in the space of three minutes, when Southend’s 2016-17 Player of the season Ryan Leonard – who ran the game in midfield – had a shot from the edge of the box, but it was saved by Raya (who did keep Rovers in the game). Two minutes later, Potts slashed the ball way over the bar.
Elliott Bennett then had a good chance saved from the edge of the box, when he volleyed the ball but Oxley saved comfortably.
After 27 minutes, Southend went 1-0 up. Kightly linked up with ex-Rover Hendrie, and the ball found its’ way into the box and fell to a Southend player, who shot into the ground and Raya tipped over the bar. From the resulting corner, Leonard found the back of the net after he connected with an inswinging corner and he finished past Raya.
Rovers should have equalised 9 minutes later, when Dack headed over a free chance to score. Rovers would be made to pay for this just two minutes later when former Burnley man Michael Kightly, who ran rings around Nyambe all game, scored. Marc Antoine-Fortune had an initial shot saved, and Kightly followed up and placed the ball past Raya.
The half time whistle went and Rovers were rightly booed off the pitch, due to their embarrassing first half display.
Southend kicked off the second half, and 7 minutes later, Rovers’ chance came. Lenihan made a bursting run from the back, and was brought down due to a late tackle by Tomlin. Captain Mulgrew stepped up to the ball and there was only one outcome – goal! Mulgrew stepped up and curled a beautiful attempt over the wall, and the ball struck the post and went in the back of the net.
The game then became more end-to-end, with Timlin chipping the ball over the bar for Southend, before Feeney was wide. In the 73rd minute, Raya made a point-blank save to still give Rovers a chance. McGlashan headed to Fortune. who headed towards goal but Raya made a great save,
Rovers resorted to lumping the ball up front, with no results. In the last twenty minutes, I really can not recall Lenihan, Graham or Samuel winning a header up front.
The full time whistle went and Rovers had lost – and rightly so. Southend deserved the victory and really should have scored 4 or 5. This needs to be fixed before our next league game, at home to Doncaster.
We also spoke with @SUFC_fans from Twitter (who previewed the game for us) about the game afterwards and they said:
“Trust me I’ve seen a lot worse teams down here who have had good seasons, you’ll be fine. I just think it was always going to be probably a tougher game down here against us today than most would think”
Our matchday experience from the Southend game will be uploaded to our YouTube channel this weekend. The channel can be found here.
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