Just 44 hours after leaving the Highbury pitch at the end of a high-octane 2-2 draw with npower League Two leaders Gillingham, Fleetwood Town re-emerge 278 miles away at fellow play-off hopefuls,South
By David Mitchell
Just 44 hours after leaving the Highbury pitch at the end of a high-octane 2-2 draw with npower League Two leaders Gillingham, Fleetwood Town re-emerge 278 miles away at fellow play-off hopefuls,Southend.
It's a fourth successive fixture against teams from the south-east.
Graham Alexander's side will go into the game confident of maintaining their play-off aspirations after two good home performances. Town's manager was disappointed to gift the opposition two goals on Saturday but enthused over a second half where his side 'stepped up the tempo and pressure.'
'It's a quick turnaround but other teams are in our situation and we need to address it in a professional way. The lads know that it's a big game and we have to ensure that we look after them in the hours between the games. It is a short time to prepare but we have a virtually fully-fit squad which might come into action over the two games.'
Rob Atkinson and Dean Howell remain concerns, having such little time to continue recovery after missing out on Saturday. On the positive side, the return of Andy Mangan in the 84th minute will give further options to the manager in the attacking half of the field.
Southend, under new manager Phil Brown, have their eyes set in two directions. As well as still hoping for a play-off berth, they have Wembley on their minds. Crewe Alexandra are the opponents in the Johnstone Paints Final on Sunday:
'It's certainly an unusual situation for Southend to have a new manager and face a final within a short time,' said Alexander. 'I know Phil from Preston days but won't be second-guessing how he will approach the week. Personally, I never went on pitch without giving 100% but as a younger player you might be forgiven for looking a little further ahead. With experience you focus more and more on the next game only. However, those are issues that lie elsewhere. We'll be focusing purely on our approach.'
For Brown, it is his first home game in charge and he is keen to maximise the effect of the extra day off, his side having drawn at Bradford on Good Friday, having given away a two-goal lead. He told the club website:
'There's no denying that it can be a factor but we must make that the case when we face Fleetwood. I spent some time with Graham when I was out of the game and watched one of his training sessions. He had about 28 players out there while we had 18 fit for the Bradford game.
'Fleetwood are a good side and there's no doubt it's going to be a tough test. I'm looking forward to my first home game in charge and three points would give us confidence to take into Wembley.'
Home form has suffered of late with four defeats and two draws in their last six games. With over 28000 tickets sold for Wembley Southend are hopeful that many will get into the party mood by supporting this holiday fixture.
Brown will check on the fitness of midfielder Ben Reeves and defender Luke Prosser but others definitely out include defender Chris Barker (Achilles), midfielder Michael Timlin (broken leg) and striker Neil Harris (knee). Mark Phillips has returned to training after a broken toe but is unlikely to feature.
Victory would leap frog Southend over Town while one point for Town would guarantee League 2 football next season!