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1 February 2022

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Southend boss Kevin Maher said winning is “a good habit to get into” after Blues extended their unbeaten league run to seven games with a 2-1 win against Barnet at Roots Hall this evening.

Matt Dennis’ double in the first half set Southend on their way to their fourth successive home win in all competitions, with the on-loan Norwich winger tapping in rebounds from shots from Jason Demetriou and Tom Clifford.

Adam Marriott did grab one back before the interval, but the Bees were unable to complete the turnaround as Blues picked up three more points as they climbed up to 13th in the table.

“Every win has been hard-fought I have to say, we wish it was a bit more comfortable,” said Maher following the full-time whistle on Tuesday evening.  

“After the way we started, two-up, I thought we were a threat every time we attacked and to then conceded one puts you on the back foot again.

“I’m delighted to come away with three points and that’s the most important thing.

“We had a couple of chances and a few opportunities to get the third which would have put it to bed but when you don’t do that the teams always have a chance.

“To be fair to the players, they’re winning games and I keep saying we haven’t won enough football matches at this football club for a long, long time, so it’s a good habit to get into and one that we want to keep going.”

Tonight’s match-winner, Dennis, has been in a rich vein of scoring form since coming on and grabbing the winner against Dorking Wanderers in the FA Trophy just before Christmas.

Since that tie, Dennis has notched six goals in his last eight appearances in a Blues shirt with both goals this evening real poachers finishes.

“It was good reactions from a centre forward and if you get a few of them a year you’ll be happy.

“I’m delighted with Matty. He was probably below par on Saturday [against Dover] but he was sharp again tonight, so I’m really pleased with him, and he had to take his two goals ever so well.

“[The second] is a striker’s goal, to be on the spot and to finish it, he’s done that well.

“His overall game, he was always a threat off the shoulder of defenders. Delighted with him.”

Despite the attentions understandably being on Dennis and his brace, Maher gave special praise to Sam Dalby who continued to lead the line up front in the absence of the injured Rhys Murphy.

And with Harry Cardwell also out with an injury, tonight saw a full debut for Callum Powell, who Maher felt showed glimpses of his ability.

“I thought Sam Dalby was outstanding tonight as well. He probably didn’t get the goals he’s deserved since I’ve been here but his work rate, he’s got fitter, he’s got stronger, he holds the ball up, he fights centre-halves and I thought he was excellent as well.

“I thought he was very good tonight and deserved a goal, but it wasn’t to be. But the work he does for the team doesn’t go unnoticed.

“Pleased with him, pleased with Matty and Callum Powell had his debut tonight and he showed glimpses of what he can do.

“As a team performance, it was a blustery night and a bobbly pitch, but it was a good team performance.”

In front of a crowd of 6,036 at Roots Hall this evening, Blues were once again backed by a superb home support who stayed with the team all the way to the final whistle.

Maher and his squad went round the ground to applaud the fans at full time and the Southend manager feels the connection between the players, staff and fans is vitally important.

“I know it was another big one [the attendance]. Outstanding, and they stayed with the players right the way through and even when they were under a bit of pressure in the last few minutes, rather than getting nervous, they stuck with us and gave the lads the encouragement.

“They [the players] feed off that even when they’re tired, so they played their part as well.

“I mentioned the other day about the connection to the fans is so important and we want to give them a club to be proud of, a team to be proud of and hopefully we’re starting to do that.”

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