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15 May 2022

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Blues boss Kevin Maher can now start to look ahead to next season after Southend United signed off their first-ever season in the National League with a 1-1 draw against Torquay United at Roots Hall.

The visitors went in front deep into first-half stoppage time with Chiori Johnson capitalised on a mistake by James Dunne to run through and score his first goal for the club.

Dunne though atoned for his error with the equaliser with a quarter of an hour remaining, despite the fact that Blues were down to 10 men at the time after Jason Demetriou had been shown a straight red card.

A second successive draw for Southend meant they finished 13th in the National League, quite an achievement after such a difficult start, and Maher and his staff already have eyes on next season in the hope of a successful campaign.

“For us to be a successful football club when we come in was difficult,” said Maher when asked about next season. “The first day we walked in the door you could sense why it was where it was.

“I have to give credit to everyone that’s worked behind the scenes – Tom [Lawrence], Stan [Collymore], myself, Darren [Currie], Benno [Mark Bentley] and John Still in terms of the football department. But also behind the scenes, like yourself [Nick Alliker] and Matt [Mundy], there’s a lot of people doing a lot of good work and I think it’s important that they get recognised for that as well because it's been disappointing for too many years.

“I think we can start looking forward and start being positive about what might happen here. When I came back, I thought I had a decent career here and I might spoil it, but I believe in the club and what if it goes right? I think we can put it right.

“This is a tough league. I’ve just seen Stockport have got promoted; Wrexham will have to go through the play-offs and anything can happen there, and with only one up, it’s a tough league.

“We know we want to be at the right end of it but as long as we work hard and we’re prepared, and in the summer we do our work as well and fingers crossed, with everyone pulling together, we can be at the right end of the table.”

There was very little riding on this afternoon’s clash for either side with both Southend and Torquay comfortably in mid-table going into the final day, but neither side gave a hint that they were already looking ahead to their summer holidays for a back-and-forth contest.

After an even first half, Blues were disappointed to go into the break behind, but Maher was delighted with the resolve his side showed to come from behind, especially after going down to 10 men.

“It was disappointing to concede at the time that we did. I thought we could get to half time and make a couple of adjustments.

“We had chances first half, they probably had one or two as well, so we’re disappointed with that, but we’re delighted with the reaction after the red card.

“Down to 10 men, it would have been easy to try and see the game out and see the season out, but we kept going and it was a great goal by Dunne.

“He took it brilliantly on his left side and I’m delighted for him. I was thinking of [bringing him off] just for some fresh legs but all credit to him, he took it ever so well.

“He’s a top professional, as they all are. There are a lot of good players here and a lot of good people so I’m delighted for him and for the lads.”

Ahead of his testimonial next weekend, John White was given, potentially, a final run-out in front of the Roots Hall faithful after being brought on for the final few minutes of the game this afternoon.

The defender was given a standing ovation by the home fans as he replaced Leon Davies and his future is one of many that Maher will have to decide on in the coming days and weeks.  

“I’m delighted for White to get the recognition he deserves for what he’s done for the club. It was something in the back of my mind I wanted to do but it doesn’t always pan out.

“It’s only right for someone who has been a top servant for the football club and a great professional throughout his career deserves that send off.

“Meetings will take place and changes will happen because that’s football, and one or two will come in as well. We’ll do that with planning behind the scenes. A lot of work has gone on and there’s a lot to look forward to at the football club.

“It’s a good place to be and everyone I speak to I hear wants to be here. It’s different and I can feel that around the place, I can feel that in the crowd, and you can see that afterwards and that tells you where the club is at.”

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