Eastleigh v Southend United…
Two sides on opposite ends of the form chart meet at Silverlake Stadium this evening, as Southend United make the trip to Hampshire to face Eastleigh.
And it’s the Blues who are flying in the league at present, unlike the Spitfires, who have been defeated in seven of their last nine matches in all competitions.
After Storm Eunice played havoc with Blues’ Friday night fixture against Grimsby Town, with postponement the end result, optimism of a hopeful shot at the top seven was dealt a blow as an eight-point gap turned into a gulf of 11 points.
But the feel-good factor is still very much with Kevin Maher’s side, as they look to stretch their unbeaten run to 10 matches this evening, to perhaps forge a late surge in the direction of the play-off places.
Blues have the chance to do the double over the Spitfires tonight; their previous meeting saw Phil Brown earn his final victory before his dismissal from Roots Hall, as his side ran out 1-0 victors thanks to a Nathan Ferguson strike.
An ultimately disappointing campaign for Eastleigh so far, they parted ways with manager Ben Strevens last month in a bid to freshen things up following a poor run of form.
The Spitfires remain under temporary leadership with former assistant Jason Bristow in as caretaker boss, and he has yet to lead his team to victory.
In an unsettled period, the Hampshire side have been made to deal with the departures of first-team regulars Tom Whelan and Josh Hare, as they moved onto pastures new at Chesterfield and Dagenham and Redbridge respectively.
But despite a tough start to the new year, the Spitfires will be no pushover for Maher’s side, they still possess plenty of quality, especially in the final third with options such as Brett Pitman, Harry Pritchard, and former Blues striker Tyrone Barnett all available at their discretion.
In their eighth successive season at this level, the Eastleigh’s fifth tier status seems under little threat, but they’ll be eager to rectify their current issues which have seem them taste victory just once since the turn of the year.
Blues boss Maher and his backroom team have been showered with praise in recent weeks following the remarkable turnaround in form.
And that upturn could continue this evening, as Southend hunt their fifth consecutive victory, with a view to extending their unbeaten run to 10 matches.
Maher’s side haven’t lost in the National League since early December, earning 23 points from a possible 27 to prop them up at second in the form guide, only behind league leaders Stockport County.
Eastleigh’s last nine outings haven’t proved quite so fruitful; the Spitfires have suffered seven defeats in that time, while not picking up a single victory.
Within their torrid run of results was a single-goal loss against then-winless Dover Athletic, the Hampshire side remain the only scalp that the division’s bottom side have taken.
Bristow’s outfit have picked up two points from their last 24 on offer.
From The Boss:
"We trained Saturday morning and were ready to train again this morning," said Maher.
"They’re looking in good shape ahead of what is going to be a difficult game.
"It will be a tough one.
"We’ve watched their recent games and I think they’ve lost a good manager in Ben [Strevens].
"There’s a bit of transition at the minute but they’ve been better at home and they can cause you problems.
"We have to focus on ourselves and what we do well."
Blues’ Team News:
Matt Dennis is available for selection once again which will provide Blues a boost. The in-form forward was forced to miss Blues’ 3-2 victory over Woking last time out.
Jack Bridge has completed his recovery and could be in contention for tonight’s clash.
Rhys Murphy, Abu Ogogo and Simeon Akinola all remain out.
James Durkin will be the man in the middle as Blues make the trip south.
It will be just the second time he has officiated a National League tie this season, his previous run-out came last month when Maidenhead United hosted Chesterfield, Durkin brandished three yellow cards on the day.
Tonight’s clash will be Durkin’s first involvement as an official in a match involving Blues.
In assistance are Alexander Bradley and Conall Bartlet with Charlie Bullock as fourth official.
Elsewhere in the National League:
Aldershot Town v Dover Athletic
Barnet v King’s Lynn Town
Chesterfield v Wrexham
Dagenham and Redbridge v Woking
Maidenhead United v Yeovil Town
Notts County v FC Halifax Town
Solihull Moors v Wealdstone
Torquay United v Boreham Wood
Weymouth v Bromley
How to Follow:
Blues fans unable to attend the Silverlake Stadium 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.