Southend United boss Phil Brown was full of praise for the travelling Blues fans that packed the Walks Stadium to see Southend pick up a 1-0 win against King’s Lynn Town on the opening day of the Vanarama National League season.
Sam Dalby’s eighth-minute strike was enough for the visitors to begin their league campaign with a win, with the hosts ending the afternoon with 10 men after Junior Morias was shown a straight red card for a stamp on Jason Demetriou late on.
Blues were cheered on by over 1,000 Southend fans who were in every corner of the ground on Saturday, with the Blues boss challenging his charges to respond to the superb support “with performances” which he felt his side did do this afternoon.
“We talked about putting a marker down beforehand, but I thought the supporters put the marker down today,” said Brown following the full-time whistle.
“How can you have a crowd of 2,700 and more than half of it is Southend United? They were all over the place. When I was coming off I was getting applauded and I thought was that the King’s Lynn supporters? No, they were Southend supporters everywhere and they’ve put the marker down.
“If they’re going to do that to us all season, we’ve got to respond with performances. Putting blood, sweat and tears on the shirt, which I’ve always been a bit fan of, and I thought that’s what we did today.”
Blues had a host of chances to record a more comfortable victory with Rhys Murphy and Matt Dennis amongst others being denied by an inspired performance by The Linnets goalkeeper Paul Jones, with Brown commenting that another goal or two would have calmed the nerves.
“I could have asked for more goals and a more clinical approach in the final third, but you’ve got to say we had a chance to get a second or a third which would have made me breathe a little bit easier and the players.
“When you’re 1-0 up, even down to 10 men, they were throwing the kitchen sink at us at the end and they could have nicked a point. That’s the game and that’s the way football is at every level.
“I came here for a pre-season friendly and watched a good game of football, and I was thinking we’ve got to try and stop them from playing football, which I thought we did to a certain extent and got ourselves a goal.
“But they played their way into it, and I’m not saying we were hanging on in the end but if that second goal had come, I could have relaxed a bit more. If it’s going to be like that all season, then I’ll enjoy it.”
The Blues boss gave six of his nine summer signings full debuts this afternoon, all of whom put in good performances on their first competitive appearances for the club.
But Brown reserved special praise for goalkeeper Steve Arnold who’d had a torrid time during pre-season due to two spells out with COVID, but the custodian produced some key saves at vital times to earn Southend a vital clean sheet.
When speaking about Arnold, Brown said: “a special word to the goalkeeper, he’s had 21 days off with COVID – two spells of it.
“His wife’s just given birth this week and I think they’ve also got a two-and-a-half-year-old, and they’ve all had it.
“He’s has a horrendous time, but he put it all on the back burner with a performance today and he deserved a clean sheet more than anybody.”
With this being Southend’s first-ever season in the National League, the Blues boss finished by saying that felt that his side – as well as others – will have targets on their back all season and he was pleased with the fact that his players were able to handle that pressure this afternoon.
“There’s a big dartboard on our backs and people are going to come after us. But as we’ve seen with Stockport [losing at home to Dagenham], you’re targets for everybody in the league to aim for you because of the money you’ve spent, the budgets, the club being in the Football League for hundreds of years.
“Those targets are on your back and you’ve got to be able to play football with that kind of pressure and I think we did today.”