If we are to make the play-offs – a big if – then the nearest play-off place we must target is sixth, currently occupied by Millwall, who are on the same points as Saturday’s opponents Southend. They are nine points ahead of us but we have a game in hand, so victory in that and a win on Saturday will see that gap whittled down to a much more hopeful three points. So every incentive for us to win.
Having lost at their place only 2-1 but having made amends in the cup with a 2-1 home win in November, they are not a team we should fear on past results- more on the recent ones. The Shrimpers have won three out of their last four league games. Though two of those victories were against struggling Shrewsbury and Colchester, they will be a team full of confidence – though we should be too after our own mini-run.
Before Southend’s recent run, however, there was plenty of evidence that they do have problems in defence, shipping four goals at Swindon, three at home to Doncaster and four at home to Millwall. So they are vulnerable if we can get our attacking game working on Saturday. They have also lost one of their key midfielders, Ryan Leonard to injury, a player manager Phil Brown admits “is a very important player” for the Shrimpers. There is no doubt that we will have to be on top of game to beat Southend, but on our own recent form it is very do-able.
The fickle world of being a manager was nowhere more obvious this week than with Bristol City’s managerial appointment of Lee Johnson. In November, after overseeing a run of eight successive league defeats – including one by yours truly – he was on the verge of the sack. But a remarkable turn-around which saw Barnsley win six consecutive league games and make it to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final was enough to see Bristol City come calling and entice Johnson away last Saturday. The only downside is that now Barnsley are in competition with us to find a new manager
Second-place Walsall are hoping to keep the promotion faith, almost literally. This weekend’s game at Crewe could see them field their fourth different goalkeeper in successive games. The problem began when first-choice goalkeeper Neil Etheridge gashed his knee in the.4-0 FA Cup fourth round defeat at Reading. Craig MacGillivray, his replacement, then kept goal in last Tuesday night’s 2-1 win at Doncaster but suffered a shoulder injury in training, forcing third-choice Liam Roberts into his debut in Saturday’s loss to Millwall. Walsall now hope to have Etheridge back for the weekend.