FA Cup review: Preston 0-0 Southend

14 Nov

FOR the second season in a row, Blues were handed an away tie in the northwest in the FA Cup 1st round. On paper, this looked an altogether tougher assignment than last year’s trip to Macclesfield. Preston, managed by perma-tanned Phil Brown, lay solidly in mid-table in League One. An early-season run of 7 straight league wins seems a long time ago now, as the Lilywhites had only two JPT penalty shootout successes to show for the last 2 months, meaning Brown has started to come under pressure. Difficult to know which Preston team would turn up, but it would undoubtedly be a good test of how far Blues have come and what we might face if we do go up at the end of the season.

We made the trip to this one by train, and enjoyed some good beer and chatting to friendly locals in the excellent Black Bull en route to the ground. Deepdale is an impressive stadium, and the climb up the steps to the top of the huge stand is certainly not one for the unfit! A healthy following of around 400 Shrimpers had made the long trip, but the total crowd of 6,609 was largely dwarfed by swathes of empty seats, despite the cheap prices. I was surprised to see Tennents on offer in the bar – maybe a legacy of all the Scottish managers the club has had in recent times.

The Remembrance Day silence was immaculately observed by all in the ground bar one mindless individual in the home end. How much of a lowlife you have to be to shout out an obscenity during this sombre moment is beyond belief. I hope Preston ban the individual for life – I would, if it was my club.

Southend lined up in cherry voltage with Hall playing off Dickinson up front. Daniels had been given permission by parent club WBA to play, which was just as well, as he was Blues’ best player of the first half, making several quality saves. Southend struggled to impose themselves on the game as Preston, missing several key players, knocked the ball about with relative ease. A front-post header from Leonard which flashed wide was all Blues had to show for the half. Ten minutes from half-time, Blues looked to have used up their luck as Timlin needlessly tripped Paul Coutts in the box to concede a penalty. To the relief of the Shrimpers behind the goal, Luke Daniels used his magic powers once again, and Barry Nicholson followed Barnet striker Izzy McLeod in blazing his spot-kick over the bar.

The second half was pretty uneventful, but this was because Blues came into the game more and matched their higher-division opponents. Mohsni came on for Kalala and immediately looked lively on the right wing. Chances at goal were few and far between, until Ryan Hall fizzed a thunderbolt towards the bottom corner that Preston’s German keeper just got a hand to. This was as close as it came to breaking the deadlock, and the game trundled along to the final whistle.

A hard-fought draw then, and a wake-up call that we’ve still got a way to go before we can be confident of holding our own in the league above. We’ll do it all again at Roots Hall in 10 days’ time for the right to host Oldham in the 2nd round. MOTM: a close call between Luke Daniels and my companion who managed to put away five of Deepdale’s steak and kidney pies during the game.

A side note: Ron Martin seems to have ditched the Bentley for public transport recently – as at Macclesfield, once again we saw him on the platform waiting for the train home. He’s not completely slumming it though – first class all the way for our Ron.

Duncan Cannon


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