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22 March 2022

Southend United Head Coach Kevin Maher is preparing for a tough test as his side visit York Road to face Maidenhead United this evening.

The Magpies have taken just one point from their last 15 on offer, but Maher believes they will be eager for a result against Blues, who have lost just once in their last 14 matches.

"It will be a very tough game," said the 45-year-old.

"They will be very competitive and it’s a tough place to go.

"They had a narrow defeat at the weekend so I’m sure they will be looking to respond, and they might have one or two back as well."

As Maher’s outfit prepares to do battle with Alan Devonshire’s side, Blues midfielder Will Atkinson is in contention to make his 200th Southend appearance.

The Blues boss had high praise for the 33-year-old midfielder on his milestone, a consistent performer in recent months.

"All good teams have players who churn out the games every week,” said Maher.

"They do their job properly Monday to Friday and turn up Saturday as well.

"They can be low maintenance but have a high output and I think Will is one of them.

"He did well when he came on Saturday, and I’ll be delighted for him to get to 200 games."

But Noor Husin, who has often been paired with Atkinson since signing for the club in January will be forced to miss the fixture, as he links up with the Afghanistan national team in a training camp.

And while conceding that he is an important player in the side’s success, Maher feels there is ample choice to keep his side strong.

"We have decent competition in that area, and they’ve all trained well," said the former midfielder.

"Noor will be missed as he’s done ever so well since coming into the building.

"But whoever comes in will want to take their chance.

"The lads in the second half [against Altrincham] did ever so well and it gives us something to think about."

Blues have been without striker Harry Cardwell in their last five outings, and Nathan Ralph was forced off at half-time with a calf injury on Saturday.

Maher provided an update on the duo’s fitness.

"He’s [Cardwell] getting closer," said the Blues boss.

"Hopefully it’s a matter of days now but Tuesday will probably come too soon for him. 

"Ralphy came off at half-time with a tight quad so he might struggle for the game as well."

And without Ralph, Blues’ Head Coach has just two fit centre halves to select from.

With the National League registration window slamming shut on Thursday, Maher expressed desire to bring in a defender before the deadline.

"It's something we’re looking at," he said.

"It’s an area with Kacper [Lopata] going back and Ralphy going off on Saturday that we want to look at.

"We’re looking and we’d like to do something before the deadline if we can."

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