Britt pops up to seal first win

2 Sep

John Spicer was denied twice by Nikki Bull

A MUCH-IMPROVED Southend side came away with their first win of the season against fancied Wycombe and probably should have won by more.
Southend still looked lacking in confidence in front of goal but the balance of the side looked considerably better, especially considering the injury problems currently sweeping through Paul Sturrock’s squad.
Ryan Hall was deemed not in the right place mentally to make the squad, meaning a start for Kevan Hurst, in for the injured David Martin. Michael Timlin returned to the side to fill the void left by the departing Kane Ferdinand and the rest of the side was unchanged.
It was Wycombe who had the first sight of goal – Parsons threading the ball through to Dennis Oli, who toe-poked the ball wide.
But on six minutes, Southend had the lead. Anyone concerned over the loss of Ryan Hall as a dead-ball specialist were tempered when Hurst’s corner was met by Cresswell at the back post. His looping header was acrobatically cleared off the line, but following up was Britt Assombalonga, who dived low to head the ball into the net from an acute angle.
The midfield duo of Timlin and Spicer did not allow Wycombe to settle and Southend’s first half display was positive. Spicer came close when he got a sight of goal 20 yards out but he pulled his effort wide when he should probably have done better.
When Hurst had to be replaced by Straker after suffering concussion following a clash of heads, the side was left with four full backs on the pitch in wide positions, but it was Straker who met a right-wing cross to force a good save from Nikki Bull.
The ex-Aldershot man then picked up the ball on the halfway line and beat two players at pace before skimming a cross-shot across the face of goal.
Southend started the second half strongly with Assombalonga in particular looking threatening. He beat his man down the left with ease before firing in a dangerous low cross which Bull just got to ahead of Tomlin.
But within a couple of minutes of the second half starting, Southend should have doubled their lead. A lovely interchange between the front two saw Tomlin chip a through-ball into the onrushing Spicer, but his effort from eight yards was brilliant saved by the outstretched leg of Bull.
The goalkeeper then thwarted the former Burnley man again, pushing away his awkward bouncing volley after Mark Phillips had flicked on a Ryan Leonard throw.
Wycombe improved after the arrival of Jo Kuffour but created no clear-cut chances. The closest they came was when Cresswell was called upon to cut out a dangerous cut back by the former Torquay and Bristol Rovers forward in the 87th minute.
As the visitors pushed forward, gaps opened up and Southend twice wasted chances where they outnumbered the Wycombe defenders. First Gavin Tomlin hesitated when found 12 yards out, trying to beat his defenders instead of shooting, resulting in the ball falling to Spicer who shot well wide.
Then in injury time, Neil Harris chose to shoot instead of playing in the better-placed Assombalonga.
Southend comfortably saw out injury time and cheers of relief around the ground greeted their first victory of the season. A slow start from Blues but this performance was much more like the side of last season, and there were plenty of positives to take – particularly with the likes of Martin, Corr and Eastwood still to return from injury.
SOUTHEND: Belford 7, Clohessy 7, Prosser 6, Phillips 7, Cresswell 8, Leonard 6 (Harris), Timlin 7, Spicer 7.5, Hurst 7 (Straker 7), Tomlin 7, Assombalonga 9.

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