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30 April 2022

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Southend boss Kevin Maher said he was proud of his players after Blues went toe-to-toe with promotion-chasing Wrexham only to fall to a narrow 1-0 defeat at the Racecourse Ground.

After arguably being the better side in the first 45 minutes and limiting the Dragons to only one clear chance – which was superbly saved by Steve Arnold from Tyler French – one lapse in concentration early after the restart allowed Ollie Palmer to score what turned out to be the winner.

Palmer crept in at the far post, getting on the end of a Jordan Davies cross, to put his side-foot volley beyond Arnold and put Wrexham within a point of table-topping Stockport County ahead of their late kick-off against Boreham Wood.

After the full time whistle, Maher was asked if he was proud of his side’s battling display in Wales, responding with “I am.”

The Blues Head Coach continued, saying: “I thought every one of them gave everything in terms of effort and commitment, but also quality on the ball as well.

“Bar two minutes after half time where we switched off on one occasion, that was the difference. That’s all it was.

“They put you under pressure and ask questions. We gave a free-kick away, defended a corner but we’ve switched off from a cross and that’s the difference in the end.”

Under their Hollywood owners, Wrexham have managed to piece together an exceptionally strong squad for the National League, headlined by the likes of Palmer and Paul Mullin, League Two’s top scorer last term.

But despite their firepower, Blues’ back three of Ollie Kendsale, Joe Gubbins and Shaun Hobson limited the Dragons to minimal opportunities, with Maher delighted with how his young backline handled Wrexham’s attacking threats while also being disappointed not to have grabbed a point.

“I was delighted, especially when you look at the back three was very young as well. I thought Kens, Gubbo and Hobbo done ever so well in terms of marshalling them [Palmer and Mullins].

“I thought our lines were good and we got up the pitch well, and I thought on the ball we were very good at times. We were just waiting for that one opportunity, that one chance to get a point.

“We matched a team that’s right at the top of the table, for long periods of it. JD’s [Jason Demetriou] one is going off the crossbar and we had a few in the first half. A set-piece with Bridgey [Jack Bridge] worked well but we couldn’t just find that real clear opening and that one chance that was going to get us a point or get us a result.”

Blues now have just two games remaining of the season, both of which are at home, starting with the visit of already relegated Weymouth on Bank Holiday Monday.

With such a quick turnaround between games, Maher will likely ring the changes on Monday afternoon but doesn’t want his squad to drop their standards despite Weymouth’s fate already being consigned to the National League South next season.

“With the summer to come, we want to finish strongly with the two home games. I know we lost today, and that’s disappointing, but to come here and more than compete is a good sign.

“There will be a few tired bodies tomorrow when we’re in, but we’ll check tomorrow. I can see making a couple of changes at least.

“We don’t want to step off standards and I think the players drive that. It’s important that they do that and if one or two come in, they hopefully take their chance.

“And you get to play in front of our fans at Roots Hall which is always a great experience for the players. Today as well, what we took away was incredible on our last away trip and it’s just disappointing that we couldn’t give them something to cheer even though they gave the players a great round of applause going off.”

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