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27 January 2022

A buoyant Southend United head to National League strugglers Dover Athletic this weekend, looking to extend their run to six league matches unbeaten.

Blues have picked up 11 points from their last possible 15, seeing them 10 points clear of the relegation zone and into 18th spot.

And head coach Kevin Maher is pleased with his side’s recent upturn in form.

"We’ve come a long time in a short space of time,” said Maher.

"But there will be bumps along the road, we know that.

"If the players keep applying themselves like they have done and respond to little setbacks then it’s a really good sign.

"Everyone is positive at the moment, there’s competition for places so we’re looking forward to the next game."

Saturday’s opponents sit bottom of the National League table, 30 points from safety.

But the Whites won their first game of the season on Tuesday evening, a 1-0 victory at home against Eastleigh, and Maher isn’t underestimating Blues’ opposition.

"This league is so tough and if you’re not on it, against whoever you play, then you will come unstuck very easily.

"Saturday is no different and we will prepare properly and make sure the standards they’ve set remain the same.

"If you’re in the team you can’t afford to come off it because there’s competition for places.

"It will be a tough one, Hess’ [Andy Hessenthaler] teams will always be competitive.

"When we played them at home they were in the game for long periods, and they will be buoyed by the win on Tuesday.

"It’s a tough one but it’s one we’ll be ready for.”

But Blues will be forced to play without midfielder Harrison Neal for their trip to Crabble, the Sheffield United loanee picked up his 10th booking of the season on Tuesday night and will be out for the next two matches.

But Maher feels Blues have enough quality to fill in for his short-term absence.

"We believe he’s out for a couple of games now but that’s why we’ve got the squad we’ve got.

"Players have come in and done well and there’s competition for places, you can’t afford to come out the team because the next person coming in is ready to take your place.”

And the Blues boss will be making a late call on the fitness of the in-form Matt Dennis, who was forced out on Friday due to a hamstring issue.

"Matt has a slight hamstring problem and given how explosive he is as a player he’s going to get one or two twinges like that.

"Hopefully he will be ok but we have training today and tomorrow and we’ll assess him after that.

"He’s been in good form and there’s competition for places."

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