Two of the league’s in-form sides battled out a 1-1 draw at Roots Hall this afternoon as Southend United extended their unbeaten league run to 11 games with a draw against Solihull Moors.
Boss Kevin Maher felt it was “two very good teams going at it” and was pleased with the point against a Moors side that had collected 16 points from the last 18 available coming into today.
And after the full-time whistle in Essex, Maher spoke to the press to give his assessment on this afternoon’s proceedings against Neal Ardley’s side.
“When they hit the crossbar and then Will [Atkinson’s] booking, you’re thinking ‘oh here we go’ because we had three big players missing,” said Maher, referring to Solihull’s fast start to the game.
“I have to say, credit to the ones that came in. It shows the depth of the squad and where we’ve improved.
“We got a great goal and we just switched off in one moment. They were dangerous on the counter and were looking to flood bodies forward when they took it off us.
“I was pleased with the performance, I have to say, and it was two very good teams going at it there.”
Having survived the early scares, Blues grew into the clash and took the lead just beyond the half-hour mark when Sam Dalby scored his first goal since Southend’s 2-1 win against King’s Lynn by glancing in Leon Davies’ cross.
But Southend weren’t able to see that lead through to the interval as Callum Maycock equalised with a minute left of the first half remaining. Maher was frustrated not to have gone in with a lead at the break but was buoyed by the response his side showed after the setback.
“If you go in 1-0, it’s a big boost. But even though we had a little setback we didn’t let it affect us.
“We got back into playing our football again. It was a bit of a bobbly pitch and in the low sun it’s difficult to play sometimes, but credit to the players I thought they done ever so well today and, on another day, we might have gone on and won it.
“I think JD’s [Demetriou] had a good chance just after half-time; Matty [Dennis] had one from a set-piece as well. We had the ball going into the box a few times. Powell’s come on and looked lively again and Jack Bridge, it was nice to have him back out on the pitch again. You can see he’s going to cause teams problems when he’s dribbling and going at teams.
“I think that showed that we tried to go and win the game. It wasn’t to be but we take a point and we move on.”
The Southend boss heaped praise on Blues’ goal scorer from this afternoon, Sam Dalby, after the 22-year-old grabbed his eighth goal of the season.
Maher also had plenty of praise for those brought into the side this afternoon, having made four changes – three enforced – to the team that drew 1-1 at Eastleigh in midweek.
“I think [Dalby] has done ever so well and rightly keeps his place in the team. With Leon [Davies] out there as well, a right-footer…coming in off that side he’s going to swing them and sometimes that’s all it needs, just a glance. It was a great finish.
“I still think [Kacper Lopata, Tom Clifford and Harry Cardwell] would have played their part, but the ones who came on done ever so well.
“[Harrison] Neal has been itching to get in and we know what he’s been doing; [Ollie] Kensdale, I was delighted with him considering it was his first league start.
“I thought we were good and could have won it. We were the ones pushing to try and win it and we had a couple of good chances just after half-time, and if they go in we might have been picking up three points.”
The draw against Solihull is another example of how far the club has come in such a short space of time under Maher, having been on the wrong end of an abject 2-0 defeat to Solihull last time the two sides met back in October.
And the Blues boss feels that the rest of the National League should now be taking Southend United seriously as they take their unbeaten 2022 into March.
“Solihull probably knew they were coming in for a tough game coming here today, and with the crowd behind us I know what it’s like here, and I think teams will know that.
“With a bit of momentum that we’ve got going there is a bit of target, because we are a big club in this league. But we’re a good team on the pitch as well and I think we’re starting to show that.
“There’s going to be ups and downs, but I’m delighted. Hopefully, teams know that we’re to be taken seriously now, and in this league we should be.”