Boreham Wood v Southend United
Saturday 10th November 2022, 2.00pm
LV BET Stadium Meadow Park, Vanarama National League
Wood fans will be able to prepare for England’s World Cup Quarter-Final against France with a National League fixture five hours before, as Southend United visit the LV BET Stadium Meadow Park on Saturday.
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 currently sit sixth in the National League table with a gap of three points to the Wood in eighth. The Shrimpers can also boast one of the best defences in the division with only league leaders Notts County and Wrexham conceding less goals than Maher’s men so far this season, with top scorer Callum Powell contributing seven goals at the other end to their total of 30.
They have 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 arrivals of Cav Miley, Dan Mooney and Jake Hyde from Eastleigh, Altrincham and Wrexham respectively. Additionally, they have also scouted for young talent in the Football League along with gems in the lower divisions by bringing in Kacper Łopata, Aaron Cosgrove and Marcus Dackers from Sheffield United, AFC Wimbledon and Salford City respectively, adding to the signings of Chris Wreh, Gus Scott-Morriss and Louis Lomas from the sixth tier, and has helped the club find form with a run of 11 league games unbeaten between September and November. Defeat at Gateshead last month signalled the end of this run though, and the Seasiders now come into Saturday’s fixture with just one win from their last five outings.
LAST TIME OUT
Southend United 2-2 Altrincham
Saturday 3rd December 2022
Vanarama National League
The National League’s early kick-off saw Southend United held to a 2-2 draw by Altrincham, with the Shrimpers unable to return to winning ways after two successive defeats.
It was the hosts who threatened early on and could have taken the lead inside five minutes when Chris Wreh’s effort glanced off the post, and they continued to put the pressure with Wesley Fonguck having three attempts in quick succession. He first combined with former Alty man Dan Mooney to have an initial blocked before seeing the follow-up saved, moments before testing Ollie Byrne again with a tame effort. Nathan Ralph gifted Altrincham their first opportunity when he was dispossessed in his own half, but almost made up for his error when he met Jack Bridge’s corner but he couldn’t divert his header on target. The hosts’ pressure finally paid off though as Bridge sent a calmly struck into the bottom corner from six yards after seeing his initial effort blocked, but their lead would last less than ten minutes with Ryan Colclough firing home the equaliser after Elliot Newby’s effort cannoned off the crossbar following a counter attack. The Shrimpers hit back and found a fast response though with Wreh restoring their lead with another rebound after Shaun Hobson’s shot was well saved, sending the hosts into the break ahead.
Wreh looked to add to his goal tally in the second half as he tested Byrne early on, with Fonguck forcing him into another save with a well-struck half-volley. The Robins were gifted an equaliser just before the hour-mark though despite the hosts’ control, with a mix-up between Kacper Łopata and Blondy Nna Noukeu on the edge of the Blues’ box leaving Newby with an unmissable opportunity which he gratefully accepted. The visitors continued to push forward as they looked for a shock winner, with Connor Jennings twice going close as Alty grew into the game, and Colclough would later have two good opportunities himself to add to his goal tally as he was twice denied by Nna Noukeu. The Shrimpers piled men forward as the game reached its climax with Ralph seeing a volley float over the crossbar, but five minutes of added time wasn’t enough to see them snatch the victory as it ended in a well-fought stalemate.
Altrincham (A) D2-2
Aldershot Town (A) L2-0
Gateshead (A) L3-1
Dorking Wanderers (H) W2-0
Notts County (A) D2-2
Barnet (A) W0-3
The Shrimpers have largely been in good form this season with nine wins, seven draws and six defeats seeing them enjoy a spell of 11 games unbeaten between September and November. Recently however, they have struggled to match that great run and are currently without a win in their last three games, after defeat at Gateshead brought their unbeaten streak to an end. Maher’s men were able to bounce back from being eliminated from the FA Cup with four successive wins which ended with a comfortable victory over Barnet, but this was followed up with a draw against Notts County as their form began to slide. Dorking Wanderers were next to be overcome as first half goals from Jack Bridge and Shaun Hobson saw them come on top at Roots Hall, but three second half goals from Kamil Conteh, Adam Campbell and Conor Carty saw the Shrimpers lose in the league for the first time since September. They were unable to bounce back with a 2-0 loss to Aldershot Town rounding off November, and they kicked off December with a draw against Altrincham as they twice threw away leads, coming into Saturday’s fixture in indifferent form.
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 24 wins from 60 games at Southend, he can boast a 40% 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 57 times for the Shrimpers.
LAST TIME WE MET
Southend United 0-1 Boreham Wood
Saturday 6th August 2022
Vanarama National League
The Wood kicked off the 2022/23 campaign with a hard-earned victory as Danny Newton’s debut goal sealed the three points on opening day, despite two second half red cards to Lee Ndlovu and Dion Kelly-Evans.
A positive start from the hosts saw them produce the first opening of the match after six minutes with Dan Mooney sending a curling effort over the crossbar, but chances would quickly dry up despite Southend looking the brighter of the two sides. It was the Wood who created the next opportunity though when a quick free kick from Zak Brunt resulted in a chance for Ndlovu which went amiss, but the visitors grew into the game and began to take control of proceedings, breaking the deadlock shortly before the half-hour mark. An excellent through ball from the middle of the pitch allowed Kelly-Evans to cause problems on the right-hand side before picking out Newton in acres of space in the middle, who tapped home on the slide to give them the lead. They later saw another golden opportunity go amiss on the stroke of half time after some good work from, but were able to go into the break ahead nonetheless.
The second half began in a similar vein to the first as Southend looked to find an equaliser, and their determination saw them have the first chance after the break, falling to substitute Callum Powell who struck a free kick inches wide of Nathan Ashmore’s near post. A handful of half chances for Tom Clifford followed before Powell forced Ashmore into a crucial outstretched save in their search for a leveller, and he later made another wonderful stop to deny Chris Wreh from point blank range. The hosts were seemingly gifted a route back into the game moments later when the Wood went down to ten men after Ndlovu saw red for violent conduct, restoring faith in the home crowd who roared their team on, but Ashmore was on hand yet again to deny Cav Miley on the edge of the box before Wreh was once again unable to find a way through. Southend continued to dominate and were handed another lifeline when Kelly-Evans was shown a straight red card for a two-footed challenge on Clifford, but they were unable to take advantage with the Wood remaining strong to hold out for the three points.
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.