Southend United v Grimsby Town…
Friday night football returns to Roots Hall this evening, as Grimsby Town make the trip down south to face an in-form Southend United side.
As Storm Eunice takes the headlines, Blues will be looking to blow their opposition away by continuing their blistering form as Kevin Maher’s side are given the chance to stretch their unbeaten run to 10 matches.
Both sides have found their feet in the National League after each suffering relegation from League Two last season, eight points and four places separate the two sides with the Mariners eyeing up a spot in the top seven, which they could achieve albeit temporarily if they avoid defeat at Roots Hall.
And Blues will be a much more threatening proposition than when the two sides last met, as a Southend side still adapting to Maher’s new regime fought valiantly but ultimately lost out at Blundell Park in November; the 1-0 defeat was the last league outing in which Blues haven’t found the back of the net.
Paul Hurst’s side enjoyed an explosive start to the 21/22 campaign, initially banishing any concerns of a relegation hangover as they earned nine wins in their opening 12 matches in all competitions.
But, after their single goal triumph over Maher’s side three months ago, the Mariners hit a mid-season stumble with poor form seeing them tumble from the division’s summit, eventually falling to the brink of the play-offs.
But with shrewd acquisitions in key areas, including the signings of Jordan Maguire-Drew and Arjan Raikhy, their form has begun to see an upturn, with the top seven in their sights and plenty of points to play for.
With ambitions of a return to the Football League, Grimsby are in capable hands with Hurst in charge, the 47-year-old achieved promotion from the National League with the Mariners as recently as 2016.
And the side from Cleethorpes are certainly on an upward trajectory under his guidance, with a high-tempo, quick-pressing style a key characteristic of his promotion-chasing outfit.
The form guide doesn’t read poorly for either side going into the Friday night clash, but Blues will be the happier with their recent outings.
Nine matches unbeaten and having picked up 23 points from their last 27 available, Maher’s side sit only behind league leaders Stockport County in the form charts, with their massive turnaround transforming relegation worry into play-off aspiration.
And Blues have won each of their last five matches on home soil, most noteworthy of all last time out at Roots Hall as a strong showing brushed aside promotion-hopefuls Bromley 2-0.
Tonight’s visitors have themselves picked up in form, earning 10 points from their last 12 on offer.
That revival has them poised in eighth position, level on points with Solihull Moors and Wrexham, who occupy the bottom two play-off spots.
A large element of Grimsby’s success this season has been their home form, but their performances away from Blundell Park have suffered.
Hurst’s side have won just one of their last nine away matches in all competitions, that victory came at Meadow Lane two weeks ago as the Mariners claimed a late 2-1 victory over Notts County.
From The Boss:
"We were competitive in that game [Grimsby reverse fixture] without having that cutting edge in the final third,” said Maher.
"There have been a lot of changes since then in terms of players coming in and others who have stepped up and come along with us.
"I think it will be a different game, but it will still be as tough.
"They’ve had some good results recently.
"I watched them against Notts County, and they were very good.
"Paul [Hurst] is someone I know quite well and he’s a great manager at this level and above, so we know exactly what’s coming."
Blues’ Team News:
Matt Dennis, who missed last Saturday’s match with a slight knock, returned to training on Thursday and is available for selection for the visit of the Mariners.
Jack Bridge completed his first 90 minutes since his return from injury in Blues’ behind closed door friendly against Brentford on Monday, and adds to Maher’s forward options.
Rhys Murphy remains out with a knee injury, which forced him off the field against Yeovil Town in January.
Alongside him, Simeon Akinola and Abu Ogogo remain side lined.
Matthew Russell will be calling the shots in Blues’ Friday night clash.
A regular at National League level, Russell has refereed 13 games in the fifth tier so far this season, issuing 42 yellow cards in that time, while brandishing four reds.
His last involvement in a Southend match came early in the 21/22 campaign, when Blues headed to Wealdstone to play out a 0-0 stalemate, Russell showed six yellow cards on the day.
In assistance he will have Joshua Crofts and David Hutton, with Joe McKay as fourth official.
Tickets are on sale for the game from the Blues Box Office online, on the phone (0344 477 0077) or in person.
Tickets cost £20 for adults, £15 for concessions and £10 for juniors (9-16) and £5 for a child (8 and under).
Elsewhere in the National League:
Altrincham v Weymouth
Chesterfield v Solihull Moors
FC Halifax Town v Dover Athletic
King’s Lynn Town v Bromley
Notts County v Eastleigh
Stockport County v Woking
Torquay United v Barnet
Wealdstone v Wrexham
Yeovil Town v Dagenham and Redbridge
Maidenhead United v Boreham Wood
How to Follow:
Blues fans unable to attend Roots Hall will still be able to follow all the live action by subscribing to Blues TV where you’ll get live match commentary from the BBC Essex team from all first-team matches this season.
Blues TV costs £4.49 per month or a one-off cost of £45 for the season, with your subscription not only giving you match commentary, but also exclusive access to extended match highlights, full pre-match press conferences, interviews, features and more.
You can also follow live minute-by-minute updates on social media via the Club’s official Twitter account by following @SUFCRootsHall on Twitter, which will ensure you get all the latest news and more throughout the 2021/22 season.
The matchday programme ‘Roots Review’ will be available to buy from programme sellers outside the stadium at the programme hut and the West Stand entrance.
The programme hut is based at the bottom of the main car park off Victoria Avenue.
Tom Clifford features heavily inside tonight's edition of the matchday magazine as he reflects on his return to the side since midway through December. The left wing-back was also on the scoresheet when Grimsby last travelled to Roots Hall in Blues' 3-1 victory in the 20/21 season.
A digital matchday programme can be bought via MatchDay Digital.