Following on from the return of Kevin Maher to the club, this time as head coach, Blues started November positively as they announced the return of another fan favourite, Stan Collymore.
The 51-year-old scored 18 goals in 33 appearances between 1992/93 and joined the club as Senior Football Strategist, working closely with the Commercial, Media and Footballing departments.
With the feel-good factor slowly returning to Blues, Maher and co. started the month with a home fixture against a Dover Athletic side yet to taste victory…
That Roots Hall roar…
In his first home game as head coach, Kevin Maher got off to the perfect start in SS2 with a thumping of bottom side Dover Athletic.
Rhys Murphy scored a quickfire double in the first half, first a close-range finish following a corner before a calmly taken penalty after Travis Gregory was adjudged to have fouled Jack Bridge.
Blues then all but secured the three points on the hour mark as Sam Dalby got himself on the scoresheet, receiving the ball from Murphy before placing his effort in the bottom corner. Despite finding themselves three goals down, Dover didn’t give up and pulled a goal back through Ryan Hanson, bundling the ball in after a strong save from Steve Arnold.
That would be the only joy for the visitors though as just four minutes later Jack Bridge continued his fine form, as he restored Southend’s three goal lead and secured a valuable three points which left the visitors on -9 points but most importantly, moved Blues up to 20th in the league, and cut the gap between the rest of the league.
Crashing out the Cup
Southend’s 4-1 thrashing of Dover midweek did little to inspire a cup run as Blues crashed out the FA Cup at the First Round proper at the hands of Chesterfield.
Blues did start in the perfect fashion as birthday boy Rhys Murphy lifted the ball over Melvin Minter to put the visitors 1-0 up inside just four minutes. However, a crazy afternoon of football didn’t go Blues’ way as the Spireites scored just two minutes later through Saidou Khan after a dangerous cross from Calvin Miller. This momentum carried on from the hosts as Luke Croll squeezed in a rebounded Jak McCourt effort.
Blues almost levelled the score in the second half, as Minter produced two fine saves to deny both Murphy and Sam Dalby but as Blues looked to push Chesterfield into a Roots Hall replay, Kabongo Tshimanga came off the bench to wrap up the victory.
The visitors were given a lifeline in stoppage time when Matt Rush was awarded a penalty after being shoved to the ground by Minter, but Dalby couldn’t convert his spot kick.
The action continued though as in the seventh minute of stoppage time, loanee Zak Brunt was sent his marching orders alongside Miller after an off-the-ball bust up, as Southend exited the FA Cup.
After a convincing 4-1 win 10 days prior, Blues were looking to secure back-to-back victories in the league for the first time in the season. However, after goals from Tahvon Campbell and Max Kretzschmar, Southend were handed a wake-up call from Woking at Roots Hall.
The Cards, who were playing their first ever fixture at Roots Hall, made the most of a quiet opening 20 minutes when they took the lead through top goalscorer Tahvon Campbell, who drilled a low effort past Steve Arnold and into the bottom corner for his 11th goal in just three months of action.
Blues came within touching distance of an equaliser just after the half time break when Sam Dalby saw his effort blocked immediately after the restart, before Rhys Murphy was found in acres of space, but the goalscorer blazed his effort over the crossbar.
Despite their efforts to equalise, Blues were given a harsh wake-up call for not taking their chances, as Kretzschmar converted from the penalty spot after a handball in the box, which gave Maher his fourth defeat since returning to Southend and saw Blues drop yet more points at home.
Fishing for more points
Blues looked to pick up more points when they made the trip to third placed Grimsby Town in front of the BT cameras but were unable to do so at Blundell Park.
The Mariners had been relegated alongside Southend the season before, as they sat 24th in Sky Bet League Two, but had adapted to life in the fifth tier much easier than Blues.
Whilst sitting high, the hosts had been on a sticky run of form themselves but got off to a fantastic start, scoring just three minutes into the evening through Ryan Taylor, delivering a huge sucker punch to the 214 Blues supporters who had made the trip to North East Lincolnshire under the lights.
Harry Clifton’s cross wasn’t dealt with by the Blues defence which allowed Erico Sousa to roll the ball back to Taylor who calmy slotted past Steve Arnold.
Early in the second half, Zak Brunt had a chance to equalise for Blues after receiving the ball on the edge of the box, but the youngster fizzed his shot over the crossbar.
Despite a number of half chances, Maher’s men couldn’t find an equaliser as Blues’ strong performance went without rewards once more. Whilst Grimsby moved to the summit of the table, Blues remained in 20th, just above Aldershot Town.
The turning point?
After the midweek announcement that John Still would be joining the club, Blues looked to bounce on from the defeat at Grimsby with a win against Altrincham.
Still is a record three-time promotion winner from the National League and brought with him a wealth of experience, having managed over 2,000 games in English football. With an eye for talent, Still joined the club with a network of scouts who would scour all levels of the game.
With the backroom rebuild complete, Blues were looking to climb the table with a win against Altrincham.
Southend had their best start to a game all season, when Rhys Murphy opened the scoring inside just one minute. Nathan Ralph drove forward early on before sending his cross into Louis Walsh whose cross-shot was bundled in by Murphy, as the top goalscorer added to his account.
Despite being arguably second best, Blues doubled their advantage thanks to a set piece straight from the training ground as loanee Zak Brunt played a low ball into Sam Dalby who took a touch before thumping the ball into the back of the net to double Blues’ advantages in Manchester.
Blues carried on their two-nil advantage into the second half and Altrincham were handed a lifeline after Nathan Ferguson had been adjudged to have handled the ball in the box but Ryan Colclough couldn’t convert from the spot thanks to a tremendous save from Steve Arnold who dove to his right hand side.
Blues’ advantage was however cut when substitute Dan Mooney carried the ball past several challenges before firing past Steve Arnold in goal. The winger would later become Blues’ first signing of the 2022/23 season, having impressed during a successful season for Altrincham.
The visitors had several opportunities to level the score line, but Southend held on for their second win of the month.
Despite winning, Blues dropped into the relegation zone thanks to results elsewhere showing there was still a lot of hard work ahead as we moved into the final month of 2021…