New Year joy for Blues: Oxford 0-2 Southend

2 Jan

Bacon sarnies and asprin on board having seen in the New Year, the AAS boys opted against a four-hour, engineering work-riddled train journey and made the journey to Oxford in a two car fleet.
On arrival at the Kassam, the Bowlplex was the rather unusual venue for the pre-match drinking, which was mostly just topping up from the night before, aside from the two drivers who could only watch on as the rest of the lads gained amusement from the constant stream of people trying to get through a door that had been locked, often shouting misleading instructions like “push” and “hold down the switch” to some very miffed patrons.
It was our first trip to the three-sided Kassam Stadium in three years, since the 2007 FA Cup bore draw, and it seemed bigger than before. An impressive crowd of just over 7,300 were inside as Southend, wearing the home side’s away shorts, began with intent.
They should have been in front just five minutes in. A stretching U’s defender diverted the ball through to Blair Sturrock, who dallied embarrassingly over his shot, eventually delivering a weak effort that was easily mopped up before it reached the goal-line.
Blues were missing Anthony Grant, suffering from a knee injury, and Bilel Mohsni, and with Josh Simpson having made the ambitious move to Crawley the day before, 18-year-old defender Kane Ferdinand was a shock choice as the defensive central midfielder alongside Easton. He impressed, looking calm and composed on the ball and always looking for the simple pass. Promising signs at a time when some of our young players will inevitably have to step up to the plate.
Southend made their early pressure tell after 17 minutes. A corner from the left was not cleared, and after Sturrock’s shot was blocked, the ball fell nicely for Barry Corr to slam the ball low into the net from 15 yards and sent the 460 away fans into raptures.
Incredibly, this was Southend’s sixth successive away match, but in sharp contrast to their often disjointed Roots Hall performances, this display was assured and confident, with some excellent football played on the ground.
Oxford could not find a way past Southend’s stubborn back line – Chris Barker and Graham Coughlin won everything that came their way, and the home side’s midfield were constantly irritated by their snapping counterparts in blue who worked hard to break down attacks before they started.
Ryan Hall cut in from the right and unleashed a shot that looked to be going places before it struck Sturrock on the foot and diverted harmlessly out of play. But Southend focused on keeping their discipline, and there were few other openings for either side.
With the half time whistle about to blow, Sean Clohessy delivered an overhit right-wing cross that looked harmless. However, former Southend loanee Ryan Clarke badly misjudged the flight of the ball, and somehow it arced over the back-peddling keeper and into the net via the post. Lucky, certainly, but no more than Southend deserved for a dominant first half display.
The second half started with Blair Sturrock sending a first time volley wide after a searching through-ball had found the striker alone in the box in acres of space and with Clarke stranded off his line. It was a difficult chance and the 28-year-old was not far away.
Oxford then had a couple of good moments, first a flashing volley from Alfie Potter that flew wide, then a fizzing low cross that somehow evaded everyone and rolled to safety.
With 17 minutes left, Sturrock cut inside from the right and, with only one defender to beat, tested the goalkeeper with a fairly tame effort that was pushed away.
Matt Paterson then replaced Barry Corr, and instantly sent a 20-yard shot curling wide of the post. Rhys Evans, in for Glenn Morris who took a knock over Christmas, was finally forced into action to push away a far post header from Steve MacLean, who joined the U’s the previous day on loan.
Paterson then tried an ambitious lob that dropped off target, but Southend saw out the remainder of the game comfortably before animated celebrations from players and fans at the end of the match.
So, after it took nearly three months to register the first win of 2010, the first day of 2011 saw a convincing away victory. Let’s hope things are looking up. Blues are now up to 12th with a game in hand on some teams around them.


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