Southend will provide a very stern test as Blackburn's season commences, their first in the third tier of English football for 37 years, at Roots Hall this Saturday.
Having narrowly missed out on the League One play-offs by one point last year, Southend have recruited well with the acquisitions of Michael Kightly from Burnley, ex-Rovers loanee Stephen Hendrie from West Ham and forgotten Norwich man Michael Turner.
Southend's quest to go one step further this season has began with an indifferent pre-season in which injuries have been the main talking point. The Shrimpers kicked their pre-season off with back-to-back away wins at Braintree Town and Bishop's Stortford before a draw at National League side Ebbsfleet. A 0-3 defeat at home to Premier League side Brighton and Hove Albion, followed by Southend finishing pre-season with a 2-0 win away at League 2 side Cambridge United, a game where all proceeds went towards the care and treatment of U's fan, Simon Dobbin.
During these games, however, Southend lost Stephen McLaughlin, Michael Turner, Ben Coker and Anthony Wordsworth to injuries, all of whom are unlikely to play a part this Saturday. Another player Southend will be without is Nile Ranger – In March, the striker was sentenced to 8 months in prison for conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Southend have confirmed the striker is staying on the Essex coast upon release and will return to training with the club. The positive of their pre-season is undoubtedly that winner of Southend's Player of The Year for the past two seasons, Ryan Leonard, is still at the club.
Meanwhile, Blackburn will hopefully have Darragh Lenihan and Charlie Mulgrew available for selection after the defensive pair both missed the 3-1 defeat to Carlisle on Friday due to injuries. Ben Gladwin should also be available if needed.
Rovers have a good record against Southend United. The clubs have met a total of 12 times in the history of the two teams, with Rovers winning on 7 occasions, Southend winning 1 and the teams have drawn 4 times.
10th March 1992
Blackburn 2-2 Southend – 2nd Division
The last time that the clubs met saw a draw at Ewood Park in the 2nd division.
5th November 1991
Southend 3 vs 0 Blackburn – 2nd Division
The same season saw Rovers travel down to Southend in November. Southend recorded their only win against Rovers in their history with a 3-0 win at Roots Hall.
2nd February 1980
Southend 0-1 Rovers – 3rd Division
The previous meeting before the 1991/92 season was 11 years before when the sides met in the 3rd division – which is equivalent to League One. Rovers ran out 1-0 winners at Roots Hall.
Who to watch:
Saturday sees both teams play their first competitive game of the season and, although morale around the club is high for the first time in a serious number of years, Blackburn will have to be at their very best to get 3 points here. Ryan Leonard in the centre of the Southend's midfield can really dictate play if he is afforded time and with Anton Ferdinand, Michael Kightly and Simon Cox, they have higher level experience all over the pitch. A full strength Blackburn team should be too much for Southend but, given the fact Blackburn haven't won on the opening day since 2010, the 3 points aren't a given.
Southend(17/10) Draw (9/4) Blackburn (13/8)
Prediction: 1-1 (9/2)
Value tip: Blackburn to win from behind (14/1)
*Odds taken from skybet and correct as of 31/07/17
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