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Town Insider - Southend United

7 December 2012

Fleetwood Town’s new manager, Graham Alexander, is expected to watch his new charges from the technical area as they face a tough Highbury test against fifth-placed Southend United who come into the g

By David Mitchell

Fleetwood Town’s new manager, Graham Alexander, is expected to watch his new charges from the technical area as they face a tough Highbury test against fifth-placed Southend United who come into the game on a rich vein of form.

Paul Sturrock’s side are currently protecting a nine-match league and cup unbeaten run and, with 21 away goals, are the league’s top scorers on the road. Alexander indicated in his press conference on Thursday that, having met his players at training on Friday, he would lean heavily on the opinions of coaching staff Craig Madden and Steve Macauley regarding the make-up of his first team selection. The squad have put in a solid week’s training in some difficult weather conditions.  Curtis Obeng has missed the last two matches with a tweaked medial ligament in his knee but came through training well on Thursday.  Another expecting to be fit and available is skipper Steve McNulty after leaving the field early last Saturday with a recurrence of his calf problem. Striker, Jon Parkin, is likely to need another week before being declared fit to return.  Central defender, Rob Atkinson, has returned from his loan period at Accrington Stanley and is available again after being cup-tied last weekend. Over the past seven days, Sturrock’s side have shown their credentials against League One sides.   A 1-1 draw in the FA Cup at Bury last Saturday was followed on Tuesday by a 2-1 home victory over Brentford in the Johnstone Paint Trophy Southern quarter-final. Brentford had lost just once in 17 games.  Leading scorer is Britt Assombalonga with 12 goals. Sturrock insists that Fleetwood can react in one of two ways and expects a positive performance.  He explained in more detail to the club’s website: ‘We know it will be difficult.  It all depends on what Fleetwood turn up but I’d imagine they will roll their sleeves up.  They will all want to try and impress so it’s going to be a hard, hard tussle.  They have some excellent players and if they hit it off on the day they can be a real handful.  We will go there full of confidence because we have been excellent away from home- though we are suffering with a few injuries.  We’ve got a few niggles and knocks and we’ve now played 26 games in just a few months so it’s tough.’ Sturrock is awaiting fitness reports on influential duo Mark Phillips and Gavin Tomlin who both missed the Brentford match.  Tomlin is a man in form with seven goals from his last six games but has a back injury while centre-back Phillips has a leg problem: ‘Gavin and Mark will have fitness tests along with a few others while there have been a couple like John Spicer who have been suffering from a virus. The training conditions haven’t been great this week which hasn’t helped but we will hope to have them fit because we’re on a good run and want to keep that going.’ Southend have faced acute financial problems in recent years and appointed former Sheffield Wednesday and Plymouth manager, Sturrock, in July 2010. A month later all cases against the club were dropped and they avoided entering administration.  The Shrimpers missed automatic promotion by a single point last season, finishing fourth, and will feel on current form that they can go one stage better this time round.

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