Boreham Wood v Southend United
Tuesday 14th March 2022, 7.45pm
LV BET Stadium Meadow Park, Vanarama National League
After missing out on National League action on the weekend due to Gateshead’s participation in the FA Trophy, the Wood will be able to fill the void on Tuesday night with a rearranged clash against Southend United, looking to extend their winning run to five games.
IN FOCUS: SOUTHEND UNITED
A 23rd place finish at the end of the 2020/21 campaign saw a century in the Football League come to an end for Southend United, who now find themselves in their second successive season in the non-league after finishing 13th last season. Amid a whole host of financial difficulties behind the scenes, the return of former captain Kevin Maher as head coach has sparked a sense of balance for the Shrimpers, who steadied the ship of a team who were sat one place above the relegation zone when Phil Brown was relieved of his duties, and the Essex-based outfit have seen an improvement during the current campaign, currently sitting ninth in the National League table. The Shrimpers can also boast one of the best defences in the division with only title contenders Notts County and Wrexham conceding less goals than Maher’s men so far this season, along with the Wood, with top scorers Jack Bridge and Callum Powell each contributing eight goals at the other end to their total of 44 – the 11th most in the division.
They also strengthened in the summer with a number of arrivals from fellow National League clubs, including the double signing of Harry Taylor and Wesley Fonguck from Barnet along with the signings of Cav Miley, Dan Mooney and Jake Hyde from Eastleigh, Altrincham and Wrexham respectively. Additionally, they have scouted for gems in the lower divisions by adding Chris Wreh, Gus Scott-Morriss and Louis Lomas to their ranks from the sixth tier, and has helped the club find form throughout the campaign, which included a run of 11 league games unbeaten between September and November. The Blues would continue their positive streak into the new year before a handful of defeats in recent weeks saw them slide out of the play-off places, and with a gap of five points to the Wood who are the current holders of the final play-off place, they will be hoping to make up ground during the final few months of the season and cement their place in the play-offs come May.
LAST TIME OUT
Wrexham 1-0 Southend United
Saturday 11th March 2022
Vanarama National League
Steve Arnold’s own goal was all that separated Southend United and Wrexham, after a hard-fought display against the league leaders at the Racecourse Ground.
After a sustained period of early pressure from the hosts, it was the Blues who had a couple of half chances in front of goal with Dan Mooney having the ball nicked from him at the final moment when in a good shooting position before Chris Wreh fired a tame shot on goal from a tight angle. The hosts largely controlled the first half, but despite their dominance of the ball they had to wait until midway through the half to test Arnold with Ollie Palmer being picked out by Elliot Lee, with Arnold superbly pushing away his header. Paul Mullin was then denied on a couple of occasions, first by a brilliant last-ditch tackle from Ollie Kensdale inside the area – although the offside flag would have ruled it out – before the Wrexham striker tried an audacious overhead kick which went wide. The Red Dragons managed to break the deadlock before the break though as Ben Tozer’s deep cross was parried into the net by Arnold, and despite the Blues’ protests to referee Paul Marsden that Mullin had fouled the goalkeeper to force the error, the goal was given. In need of a reaction, Southend had a great chance to level shortly after when a long throw into the box allowed Wreh to tee up Mooney who failed to get any contact on his shot, while Arnold prevented a second Wrexham goal when he pulled off a superb double save to deny both Eoghan O’Connell and Andy Cannon.
The Blues will have been fired up after the break, but Arnold was needed again soon after the restart to deny Mullin from extending the lead with a smart save, and Southend subsequently enjoyed a lot of the ball from that point on. They couldn’t find a way through a stubborn Wrexham defence though, and Phil Parkinson’s side looked to take advantage with Lee seeing an effort from the edge of the area well blocked, before the following set-piece fell to Mullin who found himself completely unmarked, but he could only guide his header over the bar. Kevin Maher’s side continued to battle in increasingly tricky conditions and carved out a couple of late chances to grab an equaliser with substitute Wesley Fonguck dragging an effort wide, moments before the ball fell to Noor Husin on the edge of the box but he could only fire over, with the referee soon signalling for full time to condemn the Shrimpers to back-to-back-to-back defeats.
Wrexham (A) L1-0
Chesterfield (H) L1-2
Barnet (A) L0-1
Torquay United (A) W1-2
Notts County (A) L4-0
Gateshead (H) W1-0
Despite enjoying a largely positive campaign so far, the Shrimpers have hit a sticky patch and have won just one game from their last six outings, which has seen them slip down the table and out of the play-off places. Although an early Henry Sandat goal proved the difference between Southend and Gateshead to make it four league wins in a row, they would follow this up with a tough trip to league leaders Notts County in which they came away with a 4-0 hammering, and they evidently knocked the stuffing out of Kevin Maher’s men as they subsequently lost three of their next four games. Admittedly, they did bounce back with victory over Torquay United, but they were nearly denied all three points by a late equaliser from Lewis Collins as Cav Miley sealed the win with an injury time strike, but they wouldn’t be quite so lucky in the following games and are currently without a point in March. A couple of narrow defeats at home to Barnet and Chesterfield proved to be a sucker-punch against two play-off rivals, and things wouldn’t get any easier as they made the difficult trip to another title contender in Wrexham last time out, with Steve Arnold’s controversial own goal being all that separated the two sides and seeing them make it three defeats in a row.
IN THE DUGOUT: KEVIN MAHER
A Tottenham Hotspur academy graduate, Kevin Maher enjoyed a 20-year playing career in which he made a name for himself at Southend United, where he featured more than 400 times and captained the club to promotion twice, from League Two to the Championship, in successive seasons. After transitioning into coaching following retirement, his first managerial role came briefly as head coach of Chelmsford City, before returning to Roots Hall as a youth coach. Maher would leave his position at Southend in 2019 to become Bristol Rovers first team coach before eventually being placed in temporary charge, but he returned to Southend once again in October 2021 but as head coach, replacing the outgoing Phil Brown who was unable to improve the Shrimpers’ spirits. Maher has enjoyed a better time of it though and after a difficult start to his time in the Roots Hall hotseat, guided the club to a comfortable 13th place finish last time out. Additionally, with 32 wins from 76 games at Southend, he can boast a 42.1% win ratio since his arrival.
ONE TO WATCH: JACK BRIDGE
After joining Southend United at the age of nine, Jack Bridge signed his first professional contract in 2014 and moved out on loan to gain experience where he turned out for Soham Town Rangers and Chelmsford City. He would later make his debut for the Shrimpers upon his return in 2016, and after signing a two-year contract extension went on to play a handful of times for the club. He would depart Roots Hall in January 2018 and enjoyed stints at Northampton Town, Carlisle United, Concord Rangers and Bromley, helping clinch a play-off place with the latter in 2020/21 where they fell short to eventual winners Hartlepool United. This paved the way for a return to his hometown club at the end of the season though, and he has now gone on to play a total of 71 times for the Shrimpers.
LAST TIME WE MET
Southend United 2-0 Boreham Wood
Tuesday 20th December 2022
Isuzu FA Trophy Third Round
Southend United advanced to the Fourth Round of the Isuzu FA Trophy at the expense of the Wood, after goals from Noor Husin and Nathan Ralph secured a 2-0 victory at Roots Hall.
The Blues were far quicker out of the blocks and hit the woodwork after just three minutes after Ollie Kensdale’s marauding run from midfield ended with his low strike coming off the post, and they continued to threaten with Husin seeing his shot from outside the box diverted towards goal by Ralph a minute later, but only straight at Nathan Ashmore who gathered comfortably. Ashmore should have done the same again midway through the first half after Husin charged down a clearance from the back, but this time the ball despairingly went through the legs of the Wood keeper and into the back of the net as the hosts took a fortuitous lead. The Wood responded well to the setback and went close with a couple of efforts with Lee Ndlovu fizzing an effort just wide before Zak Brunt hit the foot of the post as Blondy Nna Noukeu was almost caught out by an impressive corner routine.
The visitors were enjoying a positive spell and looked to hit straight back after the break, almost levelling the score again when Dennon Lewis saw an effort blocked superbly by Kensdale inside the penalty area shortly after the restart, with Femi Ilesanmi’s follow-up being well held by Nna Noukeu low to his right. Ashmore then kept his side in the contest when he pulled off a superb double-save, first denying Gus Scott-Morriss whose effort was tipped onto the post before preventing Husin from adding to his tally with the rebound. The Wood stopper needed to be at his best again to deny substitute Callum Powell when he tipped his curling effort wide, but there was nothing he could do about Southend’s second as Wesley Fonguck’s blocked strike fell to Ralph who curled the ball into the back of the net, sealing the victory with ten minutes to go to secure a place in the Fourth Round of the FA Trophy and setting up a home tie against National League North promotion hopefuls Darlington.
HAVEN’T WE MET BEFORE? STEVE ARNOLD
A 15-year and counting playing career for Steve Arnold has seen the 33-year old turn out for 13 different clubs, making more than 230 career appearance. It all started at Meadow Park for the now experienced stopper though, spending time in the club’s youth team between 2004 and 2005 before moving a brief stint at Arsenal preceded a move to Norwich City, where he would eventually rise through the ranks. He has managed to achieve plenty of success throughout the divisions in his career, including helping Northampton Town earn promotion in his first season at the Sixfields Stadium, playing in the 2020 League Two play-off final. He has also achieved individual success, being voted Player of the Season at Hayes & Yeading United in 2011/12 and at Southend United in 2021/22, and although he only spent a small amount of time in Hertfordshire, he will still look back on his time with the Wood as the opportunity which began it all.
OUR CLUB. OUR TOWN. OUR COMMUNITY.