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5 March 2022

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Kevin Maher once again praised his side’s character after Southend United twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with Chesterfield at the Technique Stadium.

Jeff King’s thunderous half-volley after just nine minutes put the home side in front but Blues drew level shortly after the restart when Sam Dalby put away a penalty after Will Atkinson was brought down in the box by goalkeeper Scott Loach.

The Spireites retook the lead through Calvin Miller and looked set to record their third straight win only for Fraser Kerr to slice the ball into his own net from a Jack Bridge cross to ensure Southend’s unbeaten league run continued.

“They never know when they’re beaten, and the character of that group in there is second to none,” said the Southend United Head Coach following the full time whistle.  

“We keep getting asked questions and we’ve responded. We’ve come to a team second in the table, going for promotion and been the better second half by quite a bit.

“We wanted to go on and win the game when we got back to 1-1 and we responded again from going 2-1 down which is outstanding.”

King’s early strike was the only bit of quality in an opening 45 minutes in which both sides struggled with the blustery conditions.

And with the pitch being in poor condition also, it meant for a scrappy first half for both sides which Maher believed contributed to a disjointed first half display from his side.

“I don’t think we were brilliant first half. It was a scrappy game in difficult conditions – blustery and a dry bobbly pitch. We knew second half we had to be better, and I thought we did that. 

“We spoke at half time and said we needed a little bit more composure on the ball. We tried to play the conditions and get them turned round, but we were doing it too early rather than getting two or three passes in and doing it with more quality.

“I think we started to do that and we started to win those battles in midfield which got us on top of the game in the second half and I thought we were very good.”

After going into the break a goal behind, Blues responded superbly after the restart and got their reward after Will Atkinson was felled in the box by keeper Scott Loach, winning Southend a penalty.

Sam Dalby stepped up to take the spot-kick from the same spot from which he’d blazed a penalty high into the stand from when the two sides last met in the Emirates FA Cup back in November.

This time though he made no mistake, seeing his effort find the back of the net despite the best efforts of the goalkeeper to put the striker off and make the save.

“The keeper gave him a bit as well. That shows his character and confidence from him as well, and I’m glad he got on the score sheet again. He deserves it for all his hard work.

“Pleased with him and pleased with everyone. I thought we were going to go on after that and I think we dominated and were taking the game to them.

“We got the setback again but we responded which is what good teams do. I know we’ve got a good team. We’ve got great character in there and a brilliant group.”

The draw – Blues’ third in succession – maintains their unbeaten 2022, extending their unbeaten run in the league to 12 games ahead of three straight home games against Grimsby, Dagenham and Altrincham in the next fortnight.

Whilst happy with extending the run, Maher wants to start turning these draws into wins and continue to give the Southend fans – who once again travelled in their number with over 800 making the journey to Chesterfield – a team to be proud of.

“We want to win games, but if you go behind away from home against the team second in the league, twice, and you respond, character-wise I can’t question them in there. We wanted to win the game but it wasn’t to be, but you take a point in the end and we now prepare for Tuesday [against Grimsby].

“[The fans were] incredible again. We just want to give them a team to be proud of and I think the players are doing that at the minute. It’s great to see the connection they have with the team as it’s been too long and long may that continue.

“They see a team that’s willing to die for the shirt on the pitch and giving everything, and that’s all they ask for and I think they’ve got enough quality as well to keep climbing the league if we can.”

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