Aldershot Town v Southend United…
Southend United head to Aldershot Town this evening, as both sides set their sights on putting further distance between themselves and the relegation zone.
The two teams currently sit side-by-side in the National League table, the Shots just one league place and one point better off than Kevin Maher’s outfit.
And with morale high in Blues’ camp going into the fixture, the visitors will have every confidence that they can leapfrog their opposition, who are managed by former Southend boss Mark Molesley.
But Blues don’t have such a kind recent history against the Shots, having emerged victors just once in their last seven meetings.
Their most recent clash saw Southend hand Aldershot their first league victory of the season, back in September as then led by Danny Searle, the visiting Shots stormed Roots Hall with a 3-2 victory; Maher’s side will be eager to avoid a repeat of previous proceedings.
Molesley’s appointment proved pivotal in the Shots’ survival hopes, and parallels can be drawn with the way he has set his side up to how he set up with Blues just last season.
Building from the back, Aldershot have stabilised their largest area of concern, defence.
And whilst they still struggle for goals, their endeavour has seen them pick up plenty of points in their last 15 outings to see them away from immediate danger of the drop zone.
But the Shots were dealt the difficult blow of a triple outgoing earlier in the month, goalkeeper Laurie Walker, midfielder Scott Wagstaff and influential striker Corie Andrews all left, the latter having netted nine goals in 20 matches.
So Molesley will have to plug the holes that their departing custodians left, and given the situation he inherited, survival would be a job well done for the ex-Blues boss.
Both sides have seen a similar upturn in fortunes in recent weeks, but while Maher’s side seem to be on the crest of a wave, the Shots have stuttered just a little.
Blues have won all of their last three league matches, while also losing just one of their last seven in the National League.
Scoring was the issue for Southend for much of the season, but now, you have to date back to mid-November for when they last failed to score in a league match.
And right in-form for Blues is attacker Matt Dennis, who has scored four goals in his last six outings.
Towards the end of 2021, the Shots enjoyed a great spell of form which saw them win six out of five matches.
But Molesley’s side have fallen off somewhat, having won just one of their last six matches in all competitions.
However, tonight’s hosts have recently faced tough opposition and drew Chesterfield out to a 0-0 stalemate last time out, so will prove sturdy opposition for Blues.
From The Boss:
"We’re delighted with the three wins but there’s a lot of work to do,” said Maher.
"It will be a tough game and we will need to be organised going there.
"They had a good result at the weekend too so it’s a tough game but it’s one we will be ready for.
"We’ve watched them play, I’ve been to one or two of their games as well and they’re organised.
"You can tell they’re very well coached, Mark (Molesley) has got them going well and he’s a really good guy.
"I’ve met him once or twice with the U23s [previously] and people here say the same about him, we will have to be on it to get a result and we can’t afford to drop off at all.
"We’re in decent form but nobody is getting carried away.
"We’ve got some decent results by doing the basics right and doing things to the highest standard with and without the ball.
"We’re in a better place now than when we came in back in October. There’s good healthy competition now and that’s good for everyone."
Blues’ Team News:
Jason Demetriou is back available for selection after seeing out his one match suspension last time out.
Will Atkinson signed a contract extension until the end of the current season and again will be available at Maher’s disposal.
Jack Bridge is stepping up his return from injury, he is not yet ready for first team action but could feature in Blues’ Premier League Cup match against Colchester United.
James Dunne, Abu Ogogo, Rhys Murphy and Simeon Akinola all remain out.
Aji Ajibola will be calling the shots at the EBB Stadium this evening.
Ajibola will be refereeing his first ever National League fixture, after previously being the man in the middle at lower levels.
Coincidentally, tonight’s referee was fourth official at Roots Hall in Blues’ reverse fixture against the Shots, when they fell to a 3-2 defeat.
Lee Hartley and Farai Hallam will assist Ajibola, while Howard Collins will be fourth official.
Elsewhere in the National League:
Bromley v Woking
Dover Athletic v Eastleigh
FC Halifax v Boreham Wood
Stockport County v Maidenhead United
Torquay United v Solihull Moors
Wealdstone v Notts County
Weymouth v Dagenham and Redbridge
Wrexham v Grimsby Town
How to Follow:
Blues fans unable to attend the EBB 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.