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17 April 2021

Phil Brown’s second game on his second spell as Blues boss ended in a second successive 0-0 draw as Southend picked up a point against Exeter City at St. James Park.

Both sides had opportunities to turn one point into three on a sunny afternoon down in Devon, with Southend hitting the woodwork in the first-half via a deflected Reeco Hackett-Fairchild strike before Nigel Atangana was denied by a fantastic save from Mark Oxley in second-half stoppage-time.

Neither side could find the breakthrough goal they so desperately craved as they settled for a point apiece, and after the full-time whistle had gone in Exeter, the Blues boss gave us his thought on this afternoon’s stalemate.

On the draw…

“My assessment is that we could have won the game comfortably and we should have won the game comfortably, but when it came to the closing stages of the game we were backs to the wall, absolutely full tilt backs to the wall.

“They were making subs and putting fresh legs on and I thought the longer the game went on, because of that long trip to Barrow on Tuesday, it might have just played into our hands a little bit and we could have finished the game quite strongly.

“But if we get the first goal, which we should have done as there were two or three great opportunities – not halve chances, full-on chances – and if we get our noses in front normally you’d win two or three-nil. We get our noses in front and we get a different attitude, a different mentality.

“I’m delighted with our application, delighted with the way young players seem to be taking everything I’m saying on board and more so the senior players, they’re taking everything on board because they know it’s right what’s happening.

On Blues’ attacking threat…

“I witnessed a brutal assault by Barrow on Exeter on Tuesday. Did I want to go the same way? No. I just wanted to play a style of football that would get us into areas in the final third where the front four could hurt the opposition.

“I think the front four of Walsh, Reeco [Hackett-Fairchild], Ricky Holmes and Sim [Akinola] had pace, guile, a little bit of creativity and nous, so getting the ball into dangerous areas was the key message today and keeping it there.

“I thought the first 15-20 minutes of the second half that was probably the best we’ve played, since I’ve been at the club, but that needs to be a longer spell. I think the first-half mentality was absolutely spot on. We hit the crossbar this week, the post last week, so we’re getting closer we just need to see that first goal.”

On the experienced heads in the side…

“I’ve always said that Ox should have played at a higher level and I still believe that. If I was managing a League One or Championship club, I would be thinking about taking Ox. So you hang onto your star assets, but he’s been going through it as well. The last man in the defence, you look at the league table and he’ll hold himself personally responsible for that because that’s the type of person he is.

“Same as Jason Demetriou, I thought he was absolutely outstanding. I felt it was the right decision to bring John White back too, and that’s not to say that Tyler Cordner was indifferent last week, but John White’s experience and nous out there was needed.

“You’re coming up against probably the best striker in League Two in my opinion and he’s a constant threat, he’s on your shoulder, he always asking you big questions and we’ve marshalled that to a certain extent and we had to ride our luck a bit at the end because we didn’t go 1-0 up.”

On keeping the faith…

“I’ve always had hope, or shall I say belief, that we will stay in this division since I joined. I didn’t flippantly say to you guys that after the first training session I stopped it early and said what are you doing being second bottom, because I did, and that’s a fact because they were expressing themselves.

“I bang the drum of doing it Monday to Friday is a waste of time; Saturday is when you get paid and are on show to the public. Unfortunately, there’s not a crowd here, but had there been a crowd what would that have done? I don’t know. We might have silenced the crowd by the 60th minute but at the end, they might have sucked one into the back of the net, so we can’t bemoan that, they’re not a factor.

“The fact is, did the best team win? No. Did the best team lose? No. It was a draw, a well-earned point from both side’s perspective, but 60 minutes into the game I thought we were the better team, and for the last 20 minutes I would have said Exeter were.”

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